Patriots safety Devin McCourty has decided to retire.
McCourty, who turns 36 in August, announced his decision Friday via his social media accounts.
“It has been a great ride,” McCourty said. “It’s always tough to come to the end. This whole offseason has been so much back and forth for me mentally — probably not even sharing as much of the thoughts that I was just going between from one day to the next day. But, ultimately, I think this is the best decision for me, my family, and my career.”
Despite strong pleas from special teams captain Matthew Slater, who opted to return for another season, McCourty will walk away from football after 13 NFL seasons, all with the Patriots. He is one of the organization’s most celebrated players, a 12-time team captain, three-time Super Bowl champion, and two-time Pro Bowler.
In a statement, coach Bill Belichick called McCourty “a pillar of professionalism, unselfishness, work ethic, preparation, intelligence, and performance.”
“It is a rare group of players who win games at a historic rate, exude team culture, lead, win awards, and win championships,” Belichick said. “And then there is Devin McCourty.
“Devin did all of those things as a player and more. But, what I think of first when I think of Devin is the type of man he is, his character, his values and how high he raised the bar for spreading goodness and justice in the community.
“For 13 years, Devin made everyone in our organization feel better and be better because of who he is.”
The high praise echoed Belichick’s sentiment from earlier this year, when he called McCourty “a special one” for all that he brings to the defense.
“He does everything right,” Belichick said in January. “He’s done everything right since he’s been here. He knows the line calls. He knows the defense inside and out, so he has total respect from everybody because of his preparation and his unselfish play.”
McCourty’s on-field production was obvious, with 971 tackles, including 20 for a loss, 110 passes defensed, 35 interceptions, 11 forced fumbles, and two pick-sixes over his career. He rarely missed a snap let alone a game, often logging the most playing time among defensive players — even in the later stages of his career.
His on-field leadership was equally undeniable, as he delivered fiery pregame speeches, perhaps most memorably a passionate message before Super Bowl LIII.
According to Belichick, McCourty’s presence was akin to having a coach on the field for his ability to respond to late substitutions and formation changes. Any coverage adjustments ran through McCourty, Belichick said.
But McCourty also will be remembered for his immeasurable off-the-field contributions. He has stayed active within the community, spearheaded multiple initiatives for criminal justice reform, and always spoken up against race and education inequalities.
In March 2018, McCourty, along with Robert and Jonathan Kraft, penned an op-ed about juvenile justice reform. In March 2019, he, along with his twin brother Jason, testified about why they’re supporting the Promise Act, which provides education funding to low-income areas.
In 2020, following the killing of George Floyd and shooting of Jacob Blake, McCourty’s voice led the Patriots’ response. That year, he was honored by Boston Uncornered, a nonprofit that pays former gang members to pursue a college education and stable employment, for his work in the community.
“Devin has done about everything a player could do for this program,” Belichick said. “His off-the-field leadership, on-the-field leadership is superior, as good as anybody I’ve ever coached at that position.”
Added Patriots owner Robert Kraft: “We couldn’t have asked for a better leader and ambassador, both on and off the field.”
McCourty’s teammates will surely miss him, as several took to social media Friday to congratulate him on his storied career.
“The ultimate leader,” wrote fellow safety Adrian Phillips. “Gonna miss playing with you.”
“Unretire,” joked linebacker Matthew Judon. “It’s been done before.”
As for what’s next for McCourty?
Television would be a likely choice. Last offseason, McCourty participated in the NFL’s annual “broadcast boot camp” for players interested in transitioning into a career in media. He already has earned a few gigs, appearing in pregame programming on CBS during the Patriots’ bye week last season.
Jason McCourty, who retired after the 2021 season, works at NFL Network as a host of “Good Morning Football.”
McCourty said he’s “not sure” exactly what’s next. He’ll have plenty of options outside of broadcasting, too. In the meantime, he’ll enjoy spending time with his wife Michelle, daughter Londyn, and sons Brayden and Chase.
“I’m excited,” McCourty said. “I’m excited about what’s to come.”