Things weren’t always like that during his rookie season in New England, where Chung had a more restrained role while he tried to learn the team's difficult and demanding system. The 2009 second-round draft pick — and the Patriots' top overall selection — had a typical up-and-down first year in the NFL, and in the typical fashion of a second-year player, he thinks that year of knowledge will greatly help his next go-round.
Chung was mostly used closer to the line in the slot, and it was apparent he had a knack for getting to the ball while blitzing or stopping the run. He also saw action at one of the deep safety spots, and his athleticism and knowledge of the game allowed head coach Bill Belichick to move Chung across the defense.
"Versatility keeps you on the field for a long time," Chung said. "Whatever Coach needs me to do, whether it's cover, blitz, tackle, [line up] in the box, whatever he needs me to do, I'll do it."
Aside from a few trips home to the West Coast, Chung has spent almost all of his offseason training in New England. When asked about the difference between his football knowledge now and a year ago, Chung was admirably blunt.
"If I was comparing, I didn’t know anything last year," Chung said. "It's a big jump."
Chung admitted his biggest adjustment was learning how to relax. There were times when he tried to get ahead of himself, overthink things or just get a little too active in the play. By having a better understanding of the playbook, Chung can slow down and let his instincts take over.
"I'd just say it's a rookie habit I guess," Chung said. "You've got to learn to slow down, learn to slow down, learn to relax. It all comes with knowing your playbook and everything. If you don’t know your playbook, then you're going to be tense. If you know your playbook, it's just like you're playing football.
"If you know what you're doing, you can play fast. If you're not decisive, then you're going to be out there fidgety. I know what I'm doing now. I've got to keep going and keep going, listen to Coach and I'll be fine."
Safety Brandon Meriweather, who is counted on as the leader of the secondary, knows exactly what Chung is going through. Meriweather entered New England with similar expectations and faced the same adjustment period when it came to on-field performance, and he said Monday that Chung has shown signs of improvement as well as a better comfort level with the system.
That, in turn, will eventually force Belichick to use Chung in more situations. For now, the second-year safety is battling for playing time with James Sanders and Brandon McGowan, but with each player's unique set of tools, they'll all earn their respective reps in certain situations.
Because Chung knows he'll be counted on with a heightened capacity, he's been working that much harder to separate himself on the field and behind the scenes to earn the respect of his teammates and coaches.
"We have some animals back there [at safety]," Chung said. "We’re all working together. It's great. There's a lot of competition back there, so you've got to keep working."