Devin McCourty has taken an all-encompassing view of the defense during OTAs, as the Patriots safety is still working his way back from shoulder surgery.

So, while the three-year veteran is watching team drills and preparing behind the scenes, he said he’s done so with the entire unit in mind. Surely, McCourty is expected to resume his duties at safety in 2013 — word around Gillette Stadium is Bill Belichick hasn’t told him otherwise — but McCourty said he has used the offseason program to keep learning each position in the defensive backfield, as well as the responsibilities of the players in front of him.

“It’s really just, at this point in the season, learning the defense — learning not just one position but knowing how the defense works, knowing where different guys are going to be,” McCourty said. “I think the more you know about the defense, no matter what position, you know where you’ve got help, you know when you don’t have help. So I think at this point for all of us as a group is trying to learn as much as we can to be better football players overall.”

McCourty showed a lot of promise at safety as his comfort level increased throughout last season, but his greatest value to the defense could be backing up cornerbacks Aqib Talib, Alfonzo Dennard and Kyle Arrington. If Dennard and Talib can’t stay healthy, rookie cornerback Logan Ryan doesn’t quickly develop and Adrian Wilson, Steve Gregory and Tavon Wilson play well enough to start at safety, McCourty could shift again.

Of course, there’s a lot of variables in play with another positional change, but McCourty has been afforded the ability to do some extra studying while nursing the shoulder, which is continuing to improve.

“Working hard, feeling better day by day, just trying to put it together each day,” McCourty said.

McCourty, who turns 26 in August, has gone through a standard routine during the three OTAs that have been open to the media. He’ll run with the team and stretch with the defensive backs before joining strength and conditioning coach Harold Nash, who leads a group of players through various exercises as they recover from their own injuries. McCourty has then done extra conditioning work with safety Nate Ebner before watching the last run of team drills.

McCourty said it’s more about acceptance of the situation than frustration over the limitation.