FOXBOROUGH – New England Patriots safety Devin McCourty continues to receive high praise for the most important members of the organization as he prepares to play his 200th NFL game.

First, Patriots owner Robert Kraft and captain Matthew Slater surprised McCourty by handing him a framed picture made of puzzle pieces on Monday to commemorate his upcoming achievement. Patriots coach Bill Belichick took his turn to praise his long-time free safety on Tuesday.

“Devin’s been a tremendous asset to this organization and me personally,” Belichick said. “He’s been the team captain, the leader of our defense, really since the day he got here even though he started off at corner and we moved him to safety. That was a transition that he made very well, and he’s played well for us in the kicking game. He was a high-production kicking game player until recently. We’ve kind of pulled back a little bit on him.

“But his communication, his leadership, his work ethic, his training, on and off the field. We’re very fortunate to have him and have had him. He’s been a great asset to this organization.”

McCourty’s rarely missed any games during his 13-year career. In fact, he’s played in the Patriots’ last 120 games, which dates back to Week 16 in the 2015 season.

As McCourty is set to become the 90th player in NFL history to play 200 games and the 24th to do it on a single team, Belichick seemed to be more impressed by McCourty’s ability to remain on the field consistently for such a long stretch.

“It’s pretty good. I don’t know exactly how many other players can say that or whatever,” Belichick said of McCourty’s consecutive games streak. “But he trains hard. He works very hard. It’s not by accident. He puts in a lot of time, puts in a lot of training, is in top condition all the time. McCourty takes care of himself and plays with good fundamentals which is another way to stay healthy.

“He plays with good solid fundamentals as a tackler and taking on blockers, things like that. Which is another good way to preserve on those hits if you do it the right way. Use your leverage, use your strength, he does that.”

McCourty has arguably been one of the best safeties in football over the last decade, earning three All-Pro nods over his career while being a catalyst for the Patriots’ defense in their last three Super Bowl wins.

However, it’s clear that McCourty has taken a bit of a step back in his play in recent years. The 35-year-old has allowed 166 yards on 9-of-15 targets with two touchdowns and two interceptions this season. That gives opposing quarterbacks a 98.2 passer rating when they target him in coverage.

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Still, McCourty has been solid enough to still play and be a factor on the Patriots’ impressive defense. One of the players that’s been a key to the Patriots’ defense this season is linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley, who has a team-high 72 tackles. But it’s Bentley’s leadership that stands out to Belichick, too, which he credits veterans like McCourty for helping to potentially pass the torch.

“It kind of comes naturally to him,” Belichick said of Bentley. “But he’s well prepared, he works at it every day, he trains hard. So he kind of does everything right. It’s hard to look at him – all those guys, Devin and guys that we’ve had in those positions, [Matthew Slater], David Andrews. I mean you look at them and you see them doing just about everything right, it’s hard for any other player to not want to follow suit. He’s done a good job for us.”

The Patriots will hope their defensive leaders can step up on Thursday, when they host the 8-3 Buffalo Bills in what’s turned into a pivotal game for their playoff hopes.