PHILADELPHIA – Devin McCourty has been a Patriots captain for two seasons, and as a safety, he is essentially the quarterback of the defense. He said Wednesday afternoon that he likes what he’s seen from his group so far in Philadelphia.
“Just competing,” he said. “I think we like this challenge. You come in, you get to practice against another team. You know, in training camp, going against the same guys every day, you’re going against your teammate, so when we get a chance to come out here and practice against another team, we really take that as a challenge.
“Each day is kind of like a mini-game for us. Coaches evaluate this a little more and you really have to come out and try to prove yourself. As a defense, we came out with a chip on our shoulder and just played hard and competed.”
Asked why the D had a chip on its shoulder, McCourty said, “I think as a defense you have to. You have to come in and try to dominate and be that defense. If you want to do that for the season, you can’t try to turn it on when you want, you have to have that attitude and come out and play with it each day you come out and practice, against our offense, another team.
“We’re trying to establish that now for the season.”
Bill Belichick complimented McCourty.
“He’s one of our best-prepared players, both physically and mentally,” the coach said. “He has a very good understanding of the overall defense and has gotten more experience at the safety position; he’s also worked some at corner. He’s a great team player.
“Wherever we need him, I know he’s prepared to play and do the best he can for the team. That’s one of the things we all love about Devin: he’s a great team player. He’s very dependable, he’s very consistent, and he works hard, puts the team first. There’s not much to not like about him. It’s pretty much all good.”
No one had more fun than Aqib Talib during Wednesday’s practice, as the cornerback was talking trash to Philadelphia players throughout. After a Kenbrell Thompkins catch just short of the end zone, Talib ran toward Thompkins, excited to see the rookie make a big play.
“It’s fun. It’s the NFL,” Talib said. “You watch Tom Brady throw bombs. He’s on my team. Hey man, that’s fun. The young wideouts making plays, A.D. [Aaron Dobson] and K.T. [Thompkins] making plays on the ball, man, it’s fun.
“When I’m on the sidelines, I’m watching Tom. I’m a fan just like everybody else.”
McCourty laughed when asked if Talib is “nuts,” and said, “He’s passionate. He’s very passionate, and I love that about him.”
Talib has been lined up opposite DeSean Jackson numerous times, and the two have each had their own wins during their battles.
“It’s been good work. He’s one of the most dynamic receivers in the league; you definitely have to be on your toes when you go on him,” Talib said. “He’ll run away from you.”
Rookie tight end Zach Sudfeld continues to make some impressive plays in training camp, with two more coming Wednesday in seven-on-sevens. One was a one-handed, falling-down, stay-inbounds touchdown from Brady.
Undrafted out of Nevada after undergoing six surgeries over six seasons with the Wolfpack, Sudfeld has stumbled into a perfect opportunity with Rob Gronkowski on the shelf for an unknown amount of time.
He downplayed the number of reps he’s getting with Brady and the first team.
“I’m just here to try to do what I can and compete every day, and really wherever they put me, I’m going to go out and try to do my best out there, regardless of who that’s with or what the circumstances may be,” Sudfeld said. “Just to be out here in camp and have the opportunity to be a New England Patriot is enough for me to really just want to come out here and compete.”
The 6-foot-7-inch California native credited his gloves with his ability to make one-handed catches (he also had another one in the end zone a few days earlier in Foxborough).
Because of the threat of thunderstorms, Belichick and Eagles coach Chip Kelly decided to move Wednesday’s practice up two hours. Speaking before things got underway, Belichick seemed very pleased with what he saw from his team Tuesday.
“I thought yesterday was a real good day for us, we got a lot out of it, got pretty much everything we expected: a lot of situational work, a lot of good one-on-one work, our team saw some things we hadn’t seen before we had to adjust to, which was good, and we had a good opportunity to go through the film and make some corrections,” Belichick said.
Situation of note
There was an officiating crew on hand for each of the first two days of Patriots-Eagles practices. On Wednesday, line judge No. 153 caught the eye — it was Sarah Thomas, the former Conference USA official who could become the NFL’s first full-time female referee in 2014.
Thomas, a Mississippi native, wore her shoulder-length hair tucked under her league-issue black cap and didn’t seem to draw any negative attention.
The Patriots’ Rob Ninkovich said he didn’t notice that Thomas was female.
“I’m just playing ball,” he said. “Hopefully she’s not throwing a flag on me. It doesn’t matter who’s reffing; I’m out there playing football. They still get yelled at by the coaches so it doesn’t matter. And I know Bill’s not going to go easy on anybody that’s out there.”
Donald Jones, the free agent receiver signed by the Patriots in March to a three-year contract only to be released before training camp, announced that he is retiring because of kidney disease. While at Youngstown State, Jones was diagnosed with IgA nephropathy, which leads to total kidney failure in a quarter of adults who have it . . . New England and Philadelphia will practice together once more Thursday, with Belichick saying the session will be more focused on situational work . . . Former Eagles, Rams, and Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil took in practice . . . Ninkovich on running quarterbacks: “When No. 7 [Michael Vick] is in the game you have to make sure you know that he’s playing because no matter what hand he’s throwing with, he can always pull the ball down and get some yards out there. It’s a little different from when ‘12’ [Brady] is back there, you know? Don’t have to worry about him running for a first down.”
Shalise Manza Young can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.