After addressing a crowd of middle school students about the importance of dedicating themselves to summer reading, Patriots cornerbacks Devin McCourty and Kyle Arrington and guard Donald Thomas answered a handful of questions from local media in North Attleborough on Wednesday.
Arrington, who had a breakout season in 2011, finished tied for the NFL-lead with seven interceptions and was arguably the brightest spot in a Patriots secondary that struggled throughout much of the season.
The former Hofstra star was asked how it feels to be introduced as the 2011 interception leader.
“You really don’t think about it too much, it’s definitely a blessing,” he said. “I’m not trying to downplay it at all ... it’s just even with OTAs and minicamps next week, you’re still trying to work to get better. Last year doesn’t matter what any of us did, we didn’t reach our goal. The goal and focus and the key now, individually we’re just trying to do better work on what the coaches are asking of us, and come back strong as a team.”
When asked if last year's success added any pressure for him to perform at a high level in 2012, Arrington downplayed the notion.
“No, not at all. Year in and year out, you see the things you did good, things you should work on, and that’s how I always look at it and will go into it this year,” he continued. “We all did some good things, we all can work on individually a few things to do better, that’s what it's been. Thankfully, having this time of year with OTAs and minicamp next week, you have the opportunity to work on it.”
Thomas, who is entering his fifth NFL season, is part of a Patriots offensive line that has a number of unknowns, with the retirement of Matt Light and a late-season ACL tear for guard Logan Mankins. That could present an opportunity for Thomas to garner some additional reps this offseason, and he’s focused on putting himself in the best position to succeed.
“I’ve just got to go out there and compete and play every day. I just focus on myself, do what I can do, whatever is asked of me,” Thomas said. “It happens all the time in football, you can’t worry about that, you just gotta go out there and compete.”
That involves staying sharp during OTAs, as well as when the pads come on during next week’s mandatory minicamp and the upcoming training camp.
Recently, the Seattle Seahawks were punished for not complying with the NFL’s standards on non-contact drills during OTAs. McCourty says that practicing within the guidelines for offseason work is something stressed in New England.
“It kind of always is. There’s a lot of different rules, not just in the offseason, but during the season. It’s talked about, this is what we’ve got to do to stay within the guidelines and that’s what we do. Do whatever we’re capable of doing at this time and take advantage of that,” he said.
“Right now, it’s non-contact, so we’re working on a lot of things within the game of football that are non-contact. For us, a lot of things we’re just trying to get better fundamentally. So that’s what we’re focusing on, just trying to get better with our fundamentals and try to cross over when it becomes contact,” he added.