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Patriots Notebook 6/14/12: Devin McCourty, Deion Branch, Ras-I Dowling

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Last season, the NFL lockout wreaked havoc in many different ways. It altered every owner around the league's plans for the upcoming season, the coaches ability to game plan effectively, not to mention fan morale. However, the group it most harmed was the players.

With some players spent most of their summers around the negotiating table or in the court room, the others were effectively locked out from team facilities. That means, they were unable to work out with their teammates and prepare well before the start of football. This is something that might have affected New England Patriots third-year cornerback Devin McCourty's preparation for last season, a season worth forgetting.

In speaking with the press on day three of minicamp, McCourty was asked if he thought this offseason was really his first full offseason of work.

"Yeah it is. A lot of things that I did this offseason [were] the first time doing them. Coming back when I came back, was the first time [back] in the middle of April. So just getting that chance I keep telling myself, ‘Just take advantage of the opportunity to be here with your teammates, to have your coaches being able to coach you up to get better.' So I'm just trying to take advantage of that."

"I think the focus right now for myself is to try to continue that process of getting better on my own. So leaving here I think each guy kind of leaves with the mentality that we'll all get better individually and be able to piece it back together when we get back for training camp."


On Thursday, Bill Belichick did something that he's rarely (if ever) done. He cancelled a practice.

While we're still working to confirm that this is the first practice he's ever cancelled, it certainly came to the surprise of many Patriots players. One player who knows Bill Belichick all too well is veteran wide receiver Deion Branch, who played under him way back in 2002. Branch said it was a "shocker" when he found out, but he believes it could be in reaction to a productive offseason from the team.

"Yeah I think pretty much [the entire] offseason. I think as players we see some of the things that we need to straighten out. The coaches are always keeping us abreast on what we're doing pretty good and what we need to correct and [there are] some things as individual players that we need to correct. Like me myself, there are some things that I want to correct and get better on. Like I said, we just have to look forward to training camp."


As a rookie in the NFL, it's always key to get into camp, work hard, and hit the ground running. During his rookie season in 2011, Ras-I Dowling did all of those things, but was cut short in his rookie progression.

In 2011, Dowling was limited to just two games after a hip injury forced him to end his rookie season quicker than he wanted it too. On Thursday, Dowling touched on his return to the practice field and his progression towards being fully healthy.

"It's just good to be back out there with those guys. It's a great group of guys," Dowling said of his fellow defensive backs.

"I'm just trying to get better, healthy, striving to get back," he said, acknowledging that he's not yet 100 percent. "Last year is in the past. I'm really not looking to that. I'm just looking forward right now, and continue on to training camp."

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