FOXBOROUGH -- The Patriots were again without veteran defensive back Devin McCourty and tight end Dwayne Allen at the start of Thursday's workout. McCourty (concussion) and Allen (knee) were not seen at the start of Wednesday's practice session, the last of the week as New England tries to keep sharp during the bye week. (Excuse the random finger in the top left of the picture....)
Devin McCourty and Dwayne Allen not present at the start of #Patriots practice. “Atomic Dog” and “For the Love of Money” playing during stretching. #oldschool @BostonSportsBSJ pic.twitter.com/1imLIRetOj
— Christopher Price (@cpriceNFL) January 3, 2019
What’s the biggest thing you try to get done on a bye week, especially before the playoffs?
"We’ve had a good couple days of practice, very competitive, and it’s going to be that way nine days from now. We’re trying to stay sharp and guys are really locked in the last two days. It’s good, get a chance to really evaluate ourselves and put our best out there. It’s an entirely new season and we’ve earned the chance to be at this moment and we’ve got to take advantage of it."
How important is it to continue to try to find that 60-minute game as you’re trying to play your best football going forward?
"Yeah, we’ve talked a lot about just all of us executing our job. There’s no one player, there’s no one unit that can carry a team in the playoffs. I mean, you can’t do it during the season at all. Football’s the ultimate team sport. This isn’t about one player, one unit. This is about the whole team, everybody in the room – coaches, players, practice squad, everyone being at their best. It just comes down to one game and it’s the highest level of competition. It’s not four-out-of-seven, or three-out-of-five. It’s one game and that’s what makes it so intense."
In terms of preparation during the bye, you don’t know who you’re going to play, so do you just concentrate on what you guys do?
"Absolutely. This is about regardless of who we play, we need to play well and you’ve got to be sharp and be alert. I think just doing some things – we just all got to stay on top of what we’re supposed to do. Like I said, it’s been competitive and that’s good. It’s going to need to be that way and we’ve got to take advantage of the rest and mentally and physically be ready to go next week."
Can you give us your scouting report on Stephon Gilmore and the year he’s had and what other quarterbacks think when they’re going up against a guy like that?
"Yeah, he’s had a great year and he’s been just so solid. It’s tough to complete the ball on him. We feel that way in practice. I’ve played with a lot of good corners and he’s right up there with the best of them. He knocks the ball away, intercepts the ball, makes the quarterback pay. He’s physical, good in the run game, good in zone, good in short, intermediate, deep. I mean, he’s all-around just been a great player for us."
Is this your favorite part of the season? Do you get juiced up for it a little bit more?
"I think it’s just naturally a level of intensity that you can’t really emulate at any other point in the season and really for us, any other point in our life. We all work hard to get to this point and to have an opportunity like we have, I don’t think you take them for granted. There’s been so many plays that I’ve seen in my career that had we not made that one play, which could be just an extra effort, could be an arm tackle, could be just one extra push of the pile that ends up being the difference in an entire game and really, an entire season. That’s what it’s all about. It’s great when it comes out for us and I think you just try to express that I don’t think you can compete any less than what you’re ultimately capable of competing at. That level, that’s intense and it’s every play and it’s just, you max out. You can’t leave everything behind. You’ve just got give everything you’ve got."
With free agents coming up and coordinators interviewing for head coaching jobs, does this feel like this playoff run is going to be the last push for this group that you guys have had here the last few years?
"I think that every year things change in the NFL. Really, this 2018 team won’t be the same as the 2019 and the 2017 team wasn’t the same as this team and the 2016 team wasn’t the same as the 2017 team. I think one thing that’s certain in the NFL is change and coaches, players, I don’t think it’s a big secret that people are just moving on. Different people leave for different reasons. Over the years, I’ve seen it all, 19 years. You just do the best you can do. When you sign up to be a part of the team, you give everything you can to help the team win and I think that’s what I’ve enjoyed most about this organization."
A lot of guys use this playoff bye week to rest. Is it hard to rest because the intensity is increased and you’re trying to make sure you’re covering all your bases?
"Yeah, I think you’re trying to just stay sharp. I think part of staying sharp is getting your body physically to its peak as it possibly can this time of year. I think Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday of no practice is five days that guys don’t have to just be – especially receivers, tight ends, running backs, secondary guys that are running a lot, it’s a good time of year to have it."
The Patriots announced Thursday defensive back Nate Ebner was selected as the recipient of the 2018 Ed Block Courage Award. The honor is bestowed annually upon a player who best exemplifies the principles of courage and sportsmanship while also serving as a source of inspiration. Ebner and award winners from the 31 other NFL teams will be honored at the 41st Annual Ed Block Courage Awards Banquet in Baltimore on March 23.
Ebner was limited to nine games in 2017, but returned to action in 2018 and led the team with 13 special teams tackles. He has totaled 10 or more special teams tackles in every season of his seven year career with the exception of 2017 when his play was limited due to injury.
Some recent New England Patriots Ed Block Courage Award recipients include Matthew Slater (2017), Nate Solder (2016), Jerod Mayo (2015), Rob Gronkowski (2014), Sebastian Vollmer (2013), Logan Mankins (2012), Marcus Cannon (2011), Wes Welker (2010) and Tom Brady (2009).