FOXBOROUGH — If the NFL owners had consulted with players before passing a new rule requiring players to stand for the national anthem or stay in the locker room, Devin McCourty, a leader in the players' coalition, probably would have been on their short list of those to talk to.
Perhaps it would have been voiced more diplomatically, but this is the response they'd have gotten:
"This is dumb," the Patriots safety said Thursday. "I want to use the right choice of words."
McCourty said he wasn't surprised by the new rule, since he knew the owners were going to do something regarding the anthem, but "more just disappointed."
"I just don't think that was the right way to kind of, like, lay the hammer down," McCourty said. "I think the NFL is a group where you have owners and players, but it can work together, you know what I mean?"
McCourty, who has a close relationship with the Kraft family and lobbied Massachusetts lawmakers earlier this year to support a juvenile justice reform bill alongside Jonathan Kraft, said he hadn't spoken with Robert Kraft or formally with the team about how to handle the rule.
McCourty said he doesn't think the rule, reportedly devised in part to placate President Trump, represents any sort of compromise with players, though some owners have described it that way. He thinks it could have the unintended consequence of leading more to protest.
"I think that's always a possibility," McCourty said. "Any time something happens like that and people don't agree with that, you can take everything else out of it, you know, protesting and reasons and everything. Some people might just say I don't like the rule so I want to do something to go against the rule. I knew that was a possibility as soon as I heard the rule."
McCourty said that, for now, most players are going through the normal business of the offseason. The anthem rule isn't an urgent issue, since it won't come into play until the preseason in a little more than two months.
At some point before then, though, he'll figure out what to do, and there seems to be a considerable gap between what most players want to do and what the NFL would be happy with.
"I would go out there and say not many players are happy or feel that's the right way to do it," McCourty said. "So, we'll kind of see how that all comes about."
Nora Princiotti can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at @NoraPrinciotti.