Defensive back Devin McCourty missed his second straight practice Thursday, though the longtime Patriots captain arrived to watch his teammates over the final few periods.
It was safe to say football was secondary as McCourty absorbed the workout while simultaneously processing the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man in Kenosha, Wis. The NBA, WNBA, Major League Soccer, and Major League Baseball have postponed games and some NFL clubs canceled practices as a way of demanding justice and showing support for the Blake family.
“Everything is [secondary],” said a somber McCourty, who did not miss the practice as a statement but is likely rehabbing a minor injury. “Everybody in this locker room has so many thoughts and feelings going on, but I also don’t know if we don’t practice one day and go back practicing the next day, I don’t know what that really accomplishes. I don’t know what will be done.
“I’ve done a lot of this work over the last couple of years. I’ve studied things. I’ve tried to do different things. I know we could take a whole day off and we could talk about a whole bunch of different things. We have talked as a team. We’ve done all that stuff. It just hasn’t mattered.
“Obviously, football distracts people from that. But if there was no football, I don’t think people are still going to care about Black and brown people in our country.”
A passionate speaker on social justice issues, McCourty said his emotions have been a mix of anger, sadness, and hopelessness over the last few days as he grapples with the current climate in the country.
“I don’t have anything powerful,” said McCourty. “It’s just been very disheartening. Just watching things transpire, watching lives still be lost, and it’s not just police brutality. It’s everything we deal with.”
McCourty was monotone as he spoke about the sadness he feels when he thinks about the talks he’ll one day have to have with his children. Conversations that date “back hundreds of years … that have been ongoing in Black households,” he said.
He remembers having them with his mother.
“I have to tell my kids what my mom taught me as I became a teenager about how to handle being arrested or, I mean, being pulled over by a cop, how to conduct myself,” he said. “What clothes to wear so that when I went somewhere people would think that I had an education and didn’t think that I didn’t know how to speak correctly or that I was intimidating or a threat to them.”
Along with his twin, Jason McCourty, Devin is a beacon in the New England locker room, and teammates look to them for guidance on a response or reaction to this issue. Though Devin acknowledged he doesn’t have answers now, if history is any indication, he will have some after having time to think things through.
Jarrett Stidham ramped up his practice activity Thursday, seeing his most snaps since suffering a lower-body injury last week that kept him limited the last few sessions.
“I don’t want to get too much into it,’' the quarterback said when asked about the ailment. “But I’m very fortunate to have a great medical team here, a great training staff — Jim [Whalen] and all those guys. Everybody was great last week.
“I’m just happy to be back out on the field with everybody and playing with everybody again.”
Though Cam Newton has taken the lead in the race for the starter’s job, Stidham wouldn’t concede that the fight’s over.
“I view things as every day is a competition; whether I’m first string, second string, third string, fourth string, fifth string,” he said. “I don’t view it as that; I just view it as a great opportunity to get better with my teammates every single day and to compete really hard.”
Some practice observations through the lens of Globe photographer John Tlumacki, who was on site for the full-pads session that featured a lot of scrimmage simulations plus a lot of gray skies and rain:
▪ Rookie linebackers Josh Uche and Cassh Maluia were absent for the first time this summer. Defensive tackle Beau Allen (yet to practice), receiver Will Hastings, and running back Lamar Miller (knee/PUP) also were absent.
▪ Left guard Joe Thuney appeared to jam his wrist and was in obvious pain as he was tended to by medical staffers. He never left practice but didn’t return to action.
▪ The defense dominated the action … Referees were on hand … Kicker Nick Folk had another strong day, going 5 for 5 on field goals, his final one from approximately 53 yards … Rookie kicker Justin Rohrwasser connected on 3 of 5, and also hit one from 53ish … Team owner Robert Kraft took in a portion of practice … The Patriots will practice at 1 p.m. Friday, inside Gillette Stadium for the first time this year. The opener is Sept. 13 against Miami at 1 p.m.