FOXBORO, Mass. — The Patriots’ secondary has looked much improved over the past few weeks. And while the play of Aqib Talib and Devin McCourty is receiving plenty of attention, Patrick Chung’s star isn’t shining quite as bright as it once did.
Chung, who missed four games with a shoulder injury earlier in the season, returned to the field against the Jets on Thursday night and had an immediate impact, even in a more limited role than he’s used to. Either way, he was really glad to get back out onto the football field.
“It felt good, man, to get back out there and just dig my cleats into the grass a little bit,” Chung said. “It’s all good, man. We have five more games and hopefully a lot more.”
The Patriots’ starting safety over the past two seasons may have enjoyed the rush of being back on the field with his teammates. But returning to a reserve role — playing just 22 of the 72 total defensive snaps and being used more as a coverage defender in sub packages — couldn’t have been too pleasant.
Chung’s apparent demotion couldn’t have been anticipated when he went down with the injury in the second half against Seattle. But with Steve Gregory making some big plays and McCourty’s smooth transition over to the position, there seems to be no room for Chung at safety anymore. And Chung was happy to see both guys making plays in the blowout win on Thanksgiving.
“It was good to see your teammates have a good game,” Chung added. “And you just gotta get those every game.”
While the reduced role may sting, at least for now, that doesn’t mean he’s disgruntled or that he’s going to question Bill Belichick‘s decision making.
“Wherever Coach wants me, that’s where I’m going to play at,” Chung said very bluntly.
If Thursday’s return was any indication of Chung’s ability coming off the injury, then the Patriots have to be encouraged. He may not be the starter at safety anymore — although that could change quickly — but he’ll still be an important piece in maintaining a high level of play in that secondary.