FOXBORO, Mass. — Patriots strong safety Patrick Chung has returned just two punts in his nine NFL seasons, yet he’s the most likely candidate on New England’s current roster to handle those duties Sunday against the New Orleans Saints.
Punt returners Julian Edelman and Cyrus Jones are out for the season with torn ACLs, and Danny Amendola has missed practice this week with a concussion and knee injury. Chung fair caught one punt last Thursday night in the Patriots’ 42-27 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs after Amendola left the game and has two returns for 11 yards in his career.
Wide receiver Chris Hogan and Brandin Cooks also have practiced returning punts with the Patriots. Practice squad wide receiver DeMarcus Ayers returned punts in college and could get called up to the main roster if the Patriots don’t want to risk a key player in that spot.
If Chung is asked to handle the duties, he’s not planning on taking a passive approach.
“I’m trying to make a play,” Chung said. “You always have to make a play. Make good decisions, No. 1 and then make a play. That’s pretty much what it is: Ball-handling and see what you can do after that.”
Unless the Patriots call up Ayers or acquire a punt returner, fans might be wincing every time the opposing team punts this season, hoping another injury doesn’t occur on the play.
Chung is the Patriots’ starting strong safety and plays a key role in covering tight ends and running backs, defending the run and playing on special teams. The Patriots can’t afford to lose Chung by him getting injured in a role he’s barely played at the NFL level. But with so few other options on the team, he might be forced to take on return duties for the time being.
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