FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – As second-year inside linebacker Tyrone McKenzie spoke with reporters after Tuesday’s practice he grasped his helmet in his right hand.
Inside the helmet was the coach-to-defender communication device given to the leader of the defensive huddle, which likely reflects the large role McKenzie will be playing in the Patriots’ season finale against the Giants on Thursday.
It should be his most extensive action of the preseason.
McKenzie, a 2009 third-round draft choice, entered training camp in a three-pronged battle for a starting spot next to Jerod Mayo. The competition hasn’t unfolded the way he hoped, with rookie Brandon Spikes and Gary Guyton ahead of him on the depth chart.
Through three preseason games, McKenzie has played sparingly compared to Spikes, and he also entered last week's game after Guyton.
Still, McKenzie put a positive spin on his return to the field after missing the 2009 season with a torn ACL.
“I feel that every week has been a good week for us, trying to get better as a team,” he said. “Going into this week, no matter how many reps you may get or may not get, you make sure you take advantage of it. That’s all we’re trying to do right now, get better every time you take the field.”
McKenzie was asked the most challenging aspect of his return to the practice field from injury.
“Putting the Xs and Os back together on the field, having things flash across you,” he responded. “When you’re on the board, things really don’t move. When you get on the field, adjustments are going to happen, and you have to make the calls that have to be made against different formations.”
McKenzie, who coach Bill Belichick said has had a good camp, isn’t thinking about the looming roster cuts.
"You just have to go out there and play ball. That’s all you have to do. The same thing I’ve been doing since I was 9,” he said.