McCourty's rib injury in focus

CHICAGO -- The status of rookie cornerback Devin McCourty, who left Sunday's win over the Bears in the second quarter with a rib injury and did not return, is the most significant health-related issue facing the Patriots.

McCourty told the Boston Herald that was he was "OK" as he walked out of the locker room Sunday night, while the Boston Globe quoted McCourty as saying "I'm all right."

Some viewed that as a positive sign, although the words seem to leave plenty open to interpretation.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick was asked if McCourty was held out of the second half as a precaution or if it was more a reflection of the severity of his injury.

"His injury, or anybody else's injury, is all the same. It's up to the medical department -- if they clear a player to play. If they don't, he doesn't," Belichick said.

Asked if he has a feel for the severity of the injury, Belichick said: "No, I just walked in off the field."

McCourty is the Patriots' top cornerback, having intercepted a team-high six passes. He was having a big day prior to the injury, forcing a Johnny Knox fumble in the second quarter that was scooped up for a 35-yard touchdown return by linebacker Gary Guyton, and also broke up a third-down pass on the previous drive to force a punt.

Second-year cornerback Darius Butler is the top backup, while the signing of free-agent Chevis Jackson on Friday could turn out to be more important than initially anticipated.