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Sunday, January 1, 2012
McCourty the latest audition at safety

By Mike Rodak

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- With their revolving door at safety continuing to swing, the Patriots opted to use cornerback Devin McCourty at the position for significant portions of Sunday's 49-21 win over the Bills.

McCourty, who earned a Pro Bowl nod at cornerback last season, said Sunday wasn't the first time he's seen time at safety in his playing career. However, he admitted that, with the Patriots, he had practiced only "for fun" at safety in offseason workouts.

"Whenever you get to practice something, you go out there and practice it," said McCourty, who finished with five tackles. "Whatever you learned that week, you just take it to the field and go play."

"He's a great athlete," defensive back Sterling Moore said. "No matter where you put him he can go out there and make plays, and I think he did that today."

Officially, McCourty received the start at cornerback with the Patriots in their base defense against the Bills' rarely-used two-running back personnel grouping. However, when the Bills shifted into their spread receiver formation and the Patriots countered with their sub defense, McCourty was paired at safety with Patrick Chung, who made his return after missing seven games due to injury.

While McCourty may have reached a low point in his struggles at cornerback last week against Miami, his move to the back end of the defense contributed to a drop in playing time for safety James Ihedigbo, who had been one of the few steady performers in the secondary this season.

"Not my decision," McCourty said of the move. "Whatever the coaches decide, that's what we're going with."

McCourty snagged a tipped Ryan Fitzpatrick pass early in the fourth quarter for his second interception this season, but in the closing minutes of the game was flagged for a hit on defenseless Bills receiver Ruvell Martin, nullifying an interception by teammate Kyle Arrington.

"I was just trying to make a play," McCourty said, while also noting he was fine after being banged up on the play. "I felt bad though, I never want to take away a turnover. Especially to Kyle, he's one of my closest friends on the team."

It remains to be seen if the position change for McCourty will stick when the Patriots play their first playoff game in two weeks.

"That's not my decision. Whoever is next to me will be great. It doesn't matter," Chung said. "Play [McCourty] at corner, safety, star [slot], it doesn't matter. He's a baller."