FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Defensive players don’t come near New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady when he’s wearing a red jersey at training camp. The same goes for backups Ryan Mallett and Tim Tebow.

But safety Devin McCourty is a different story.

McCourty has donned the protective jersey through the first two weeks of camp after undergoing offseason shoulder surgery.

It didn’t do him much good.

“I got tackled one time in a red jersey,” he said, “so I don’t know how much of a difference it made.”

He finally shed the red, instead sporting the traditional blue jersey for the first time at practice Saturday.

Now McCourty is ready to make an even bigger impact for a Patriots secondary that will be looking to distinguish itself this season.

“I think our goal every year is to come out and be the strength of the defense,” McCourty said. “No matter how well we play up front, they can’t stop it if a team comes out and decides to pass the ball every time. We want to hold up our end and we know everyone else is going to hold up theirs.”

McCourty, 25, has held up his end of the bargain as the leader of the secondary.

He made the Pro Bowl as a rookie cornerback out of Rutgers in 2010 with seven interceptions but had a sophomore slump with just two interceptions in 14 games.

By the end of that season, McCourty occasionally shifted to safety. When New England acquired shutdown cornerback Aqib Talib from Tampa Bay late last year, the move became permanent.

“It’s always challenging. That’s probably the reason why I’m playing multiple positions, just to make sure I can keep playing both and keep staying fresh on it,” said McCourty, who had five interceptions last season. I wish I could say it’s as easy as riding a bike but it’s not. You’ve got to be out there and getting reps and experience certain things.

“As we get into the season, seeing different teams, seeing what they do, and viewing it from a corner standpoint and a safety standpoint is where the biggest difference is.”

Despite playing mostly safety for seven of the first eight training-camp practices, McCourty isn’t about to pick favorites.

“I like wherever they put me. It’s a chance to help the team win,” he said. “To be able to practice a couple positions always helps you throughout the season. Injuries happen, things happen, so you never know. You can’t take everyone you want into games, so you never know if we’ve got to play musical chairs back there.”

BILLS: Kevin Kolb’s chances of earning the starting quarterback job were nearly upended by a wet and slippery rubber mat.

Kolb, locked in a competition with rookie first-round pick EJ Manuel, avoided serious injury to his left knee when he slipped and stumbled awkwardly while switching fields between practice drills. Coach Doug Marrone said the injury does not appear to be serious. He called it “a bump,” and listed Kolb “day by day.”

Marrone also provided an update on the status of Stevie Johnson, saying the team’s No. 1 receiver will miss at least a week because of a pulled left hamstring. Johnson said he felt something pop Friday just as he was pushing off his leg to make a cut, but he expects to be ready for the start of the season.

BEARS: Chicago signed tight end Leonard Pope to a one-year contract.

CHIEFS: Kansas City signed guard Rokevious Watkins and released offensive lineman Mike Tepper in its continued search for help along the interior of their line.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.