Commentary

Rivalry reaches next level

Devin and Jason McCourty prepare for Pats-Titans and their first NFL clash

Updated: September 5, 2012, 6:05 PM ET
By Mike Rodak | ESPNBoston.com

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Two years ago, New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan took the podium for his weekly news conference in a Cleveland Browns cap, a flowing blonde wig and with a pillow stuffed under his shirt.

That was the way Ryan began the week when he'd face his twin brother, then-Browns defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, in that November game.

But another set of NFL twins -- New England Patriots cornerback Devin McCourty and Titans cornerback Jason McCourty -- have a different style.

Preparing to face each other for the first time this Sunday at LP Field in Nashville, the polite, mild-mannered twins have taken more subtle jabs.

Jason and Devin McCourty
Paul KuharskyJason and Devin McCourty will be all business when they face each other Sunday in Nashville.

It began last week, when Devin said that he told Jason, who he sometimes refers to as his younger brother, to lose his phone number for the week. On Wednesday, Jason confirmed that ties had been severed for the week.

"We've cut off all communication. I only have one brother this week," he deadpanned.

The McCourty twins have an older brother, Larry, who is 16 years their elder.

Their mother, Phyllis Harrell, is arriving in Nashville on Wednesday. Asked which of the twins was her favorite, Devin responded without hesitation.

"I will say me. I think it's just the way it was growing up. She's always had me as her favorite," McCourty said.

The 2010 Pro Bowl cornerback joked that his mother will likely wear her half-Patriots, half-Titans jersey, but will be hiding a Patriots T-shirt underneath.

Jason will be having none of that.

"There won't be any Patriots memorabilia in Nashville at all," he warned. "As long as she's staying with me and planning to come back to the house after the game, she'll be rooting for the Titans."

Ouch.

Truth be told, banter between her children isn't anything new for Harrell. Her twin sons' rivalry began on Aug. 13, 1987, and was played out on more than just the football field.

"Probably the most competitive thing growing up was basketball. We would play for hours and just go at each other, sometimes to the point where my mom would have to come out and stop the game," Devin said. "And then video games, that always got ugly."

"You can ask my mom about that. Basketball and video games always ended in a fight," Jason recalled in a separate interview. "We'd play basketball and not keep score, and just go at it."

About 25 family members will be in Nashville on Sunday for the matchup. Devin had no problem delegating the duty of finding tickets to his "younger" brother.

"I'm the one with the home game, so ticket requests fell on me," Jason said. "I'll be looking for a check for about half [the cost] from Dev."

But Jason may be getting a lot more than a reimbursement from Devin this week. With the twins playing the same position, both teams have the perfect stand-in for practice.

"I told the guys that I'm probably the best scout team look that they can get this season, going up against Dev on Sunday, because our games are so similar," Jason said, echoing similar comments from Patriots head coach Bill Belichick earlier this week.

"I always felt that we were kind of similar, but everyone keeps telling me that we're exactly the same on the field, so hearing all the offensive guys coming up to me saying [that], I guess we're more similar than I thought," Devin said.

Keeping things in perspective, the McCourty brothers realize that it is their bond that has in part afforded them the opportunity to play each other in the NFL.

"I can remember some of our college workouts, just getting out there and it would be hot and you'd feel like slacking off, and just to have that person to the side of you that wasn't afraid to tell you that you were slacking off or to step it up, things like that. Having that person to push you and motivate you to get to where we are today," Jason said of Devin.

Added Jason: "It's going to be a unique opportunity. Just to grow up with the guy and we've always played on the same team, so at this level, to have an ability to face off, that's something special that we'll probably realize after the game, or probably some years from now."

But on Sunday, it will be all business. Asked what the best-case scenario would be for the McCourty family on Sunday, Jason did not hesitate to answer.

"Titans with a win," Jason said. "[Devin] will get over it."

Mike Rodak

ESPN Buffalo Bills reporter

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