Over the course of his nine-and-a-half seasons in the NFL, New England Patriots defensive back Devin McCourty has seen a lot. He helped the franchise win three Super Bowls, witnessed the Deflategate hysteria, and saw the arrivals and departures of numerous players and coaches. Never, at least by his own account, however, has he seen something like Wednesday’s practice: eight players were absent, all because of illness.
Offensive linemen Isaiah Wynn and Jermaine Eluemunor, tight end Ryan Izzo, linebackers Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins, and defensive backs Stephon Gilmore, Joejuan Williams and Patrick Chung — the latter also rehabbing from chest and ankle injuries — were absent for the first session of the week after catching the flu. A ninth player, Marcus Cannon was limited after becoming sick late last week but playing in Week 12.
“No, not in like one week,” McCourty told reporters after the session had concluded when . asked if he had ever seen so many players knocked out with an illness. “This is probably, for me, in my ten years here, the most guys I’ve seen just be gone from being sick. No injury or anything, we just had guys come in and you look in their eyes and you could just tell they were just out of it. Hopefully a day at home and meds and rest can help guys out.”
The team captain was one of just 35 players not listed on the Patriots’ first injury report of the week, as a season-high 18 names found themselves on the list on Wednesday. Needless to say that the team will fight two opponents this week: the Houston Texans, who will be played on the road on Sunday night, and the literal “Foxborough Flu.” McCourty acknowledged after practice that the situation was a tough one to handle.
“We’ve got guys with a lot of weak immune systems,” the 32-year-old said. “I2-year-old said. “It was rough today. We had a lot of guys come in here and got sent home, and hopefully hydrate by the end of the week. But those are tough situations. You don’t know how you’re going to feel, but like we talked about last week, [Marcus] Cannon was a guy who was sick all week and fought through the game.”
“We’ve got a lot of tough guys, but we’ve got to see how it goes throughout the week,” McCourty added. Wide receiver Phillip Dorsett, who missed last week’s game due to a head injury but is now back from the NFL’s concussion protocol and among the healthy players, sang a similar tune: “It’s going around, but we’ve just got to live a healthy lifestyle. Got to wash your hands, got to drink Emergen-C, take vitamins, and hope that you don’t catch it.”
The Patriots will release their second injury report of the week today, and it remains to be seen how the flu season continues to impact the team — and whether or not the list changed in any meaningful way compared to Wednesday. One thing is certain, New England’s upcoming game against the 7-4 Texans will not get any easier with numerous key players being limited in practice leading up to the contest.