One of the best individual seasons of Jason McCourty's career was put on pause because of an unfortunate ankle injury suffered on the Browns practice fields.
Just a few weeks later, it's set to be back on track when McCourty and the Browns travel to Detroit.
ClevelandBrowns.com caught up with McCourty during his final preparations for his first start since Week 6.
CB.com: How's the ankle feeling after two weeks of rest and where's your excitement level at?
McCourty: I'm just excited to be back out there. Injuries suck, there's no other way around it. Just continuing to rehab it to get it all the way back to where I feel normal. For right now, it's just good to be able to be back out there on the field. I'm enjoying just this week being out there in practice, laughing with the guys and communicating. You take for granted just being out there so I'm excited about that with this upcoming game.
CB.com: How involved were you with the team during this absence?
McCourty: I was in all of the meetings, doing a ton of talking on game day, just being on the sidelines and being able to talk through things after every series. I talked to (Jamar Taylor, Briean Boddy-Calhoun) and those guys. I obviously wasn't able to be there physically playing but mentally I was just staying in it and helping those guys as much as possible, especially Mike (Jordan) getting his first game action of his career. He did a really solid job of knowing all of his assignments and making plays. That's always fun to watch when you're not able to go out there, just seeing guys go out there and make plays.
CB.com: Up to that point you'd been having one of the best seasons of your career. Any secrets to performing at that high of a level this late in your career?
McCourty: I wish I knew. I'd bottle it up and try to drink it for the next few years. It's just staying focused. I felt like last year, coming off a year on IR, you're just kind of getting your feet back underneath you and getting used to being back out there. This past offseason, I was able to just focus on my entire body, not worrying about rehab or anything. Just going out there and preparing for the upcoming season. I think this year I've just been able to make a few plays when it's come my way, just playing within the defense and film study throughout the week. I'm just trying to continue to do that and then go back and make a few plays to help us win some games.
CB.com: Was there a moment in the offseason when you realized you'd be sticking at cornerback this season?
McCourty: For me, it was really up in the air. I had talked to the coaches and management about playing both positions but when I got here, they put me at corner and I didn't move. So I guess from the moment I got here, that was the position they had in place for me. I told them when I got here I really didn't care. Wherever they thought I was going to most benefit the team and be able to help, I was fine with. It's obviously the position I've played my entire career, so there's comfort there. Moving forward, every position they want me at is what I'm going to go out and give my all at and try to succeed at.
CB.com: Going into the second half of the season, what's an area the defense has to improve in order to get the first win on the board?
McCourty: We want to create more takeaways. We were only able to get five or six in the first half of the season. We want to be able to get takeaways, score on defense or create a shorter field for our offense. I think that's one of the key things. If we can do that in the second half of the season, it's going to help us win games. And just continue to improve on our red zone defense. There's going to be times when teams get down there, whether we let them drive the ball down there or there's a sudden change opportunity. We just need to make sure we're forcing them to kick field goals. It's going to be huge for us in the second half.
CB.com: You're working a lot with two young guys in the secondary in Briean Boddy-Calhoun and Jabrill Peppers. What are some things you see from them that lead you to believe their future is bright?
McCourty: The one thing I love from both of those guys is their energy. I said when I first got here, being around Boddy was just a lot of fun for me. As an older guy, sometimes OTAs and training camp can get monotonous, the everyday grind of it. Boddy was a guy that every single day he's out there screaming, he's out there excited to play football. Obviously both of those guys have a ton of talent so there's no question there. With Peppers, just his willingness to improve. He's taken ownership of everything he's gone through. He gets a ton of questions about playing deep and having to transition from that position from the college to the pros. He's just trying to learn it all and he's giving it 100 percent and I'm excited to see his growth as a football player.
CB.com: Have you taken on more of a leadership role here than you initially expected?
McCourty: I would definitely say so. When I first got here, I was kind of expected to lead by example, talk to guys behind the scenes, however I could help. When I got here, Joe Haden was here and a captain. Jamar Taylor is another captain for us. We have a ton of leadership in our group, especially in our corner group with myself and JT. I think we're all, as the season's progressed, figuring out what is our niche. I like to fire the guys up before the games and have gotten accustomed to doing so over the years. JT's a guy that is our manager. We get to the sidelines and he's the one with the Surface in his hands, he's the one talking through routes. Over the course of the week, he's a huge film guy. He's the one calling plays out. I think the cool thing is we're all comfortable in our roles and we're all comfortable letting each other lead at different aspects. That's been the fun part of our secondary. There's no egos and guys love being around one another and trying to work to continue to improve.
CB.com: Sunday's a big day but so is Monday for you, isn't it?
McCourty: At the Cleveland Improv downtown, we've got a comedy event going on benefiting a campaign me and my brother started five years ago, Tackle Sickle Cell. It's the first time we'll be doing an event in Cleveland. There will be a lot of laughter, a lot of fun. We'll get some of the guys to come out. It's going to be benefiting Rainbow Babies and University Hospitals. For me, that's a huge part of being a football player, being able to do stuff on and off the field. We have Guy Torry headlining it. I'm looking forward to starting it off, not telling any jokes and getting the professionals up there and looking forward to laughing a lot.