After 11 days worth of training camp battles between their own offense and defense, the New England Patriots will finally see some new competition. On Thursday night, the New York Giants will visit Gillette Stadium for both teams’ preseason opener.
The game will be New England’s first since its wild card playoff loss in Buffalo in mid-January, and some welcome change after spending the last three weeks on the practice fields and in the class room. As safety Devin McCourty pointed out on Tuesday, the preseason bout with the Giants will be the first opportunity for the 2022 Patriots to take the field as one team.
“Training camp’s an awesome time. We’re competing against each other. We’re not, but we’re two different teams a lot of the time. You have the offense and the defense going at it, we’re making each other better,” McCourty said. “But we’re playing a game in two days and that’s what it’s about. It’s about now bringing this whole thing together.
“We have an opportunity to go out there, cheer on — I have a chance to cheer on Damien [Harris] as I’ve been talking trash to him every day at training camp. And I think that’s what it’s about.”
A former first-round draft pick and three-time Super Bowl champion, McCourty is entering his 13th year in the NFL and the Patriots organization. The team captain, who has been a regular participant in camp, has experienced how preseason represents the next step in a squad’s development.
For him, one of the crucial aspects of this is uniting the team behind one common goal — especially after tempers started flaring on Tuesday: center David Andrews and defensive tackle Christian Barmore were both ejected for fighting that day.
McCourty was asked about the scrap after the session, claiming it would be “a little late for all of that” and “won’t help us win any football games.” However, he also noted that tension rising is only natural and that going up against another team can help with that.
“I’m excited about how now we’re moving forward and we get an opportunity to be the New England Patriots. We get an opportunity to be one team, cheering on each other, helping each other make plays, and ultimately at the end of the day win a football game. We’ll get a chance to do that Thursday,” he said.
“I know the whole league will be excited, other than the two teams that have played already, to get out there and hit somebody other than the guy you share a locker room with.”
The Patriots’ preseason matchup with the Giants is set for a 7 p.m. ET kickoff. Whether or not McCourty, Andrews, Barmore and the other starters will actually get to see the field remains to be seen, though.