FOXBORO, Mass. — Each time Bill Belichick is asked to describe strong safety Patrick Chung, one of the first words out of his mouth is “tough.”
That trend continued Friday, one day after Chung was voted a New England Patriots captain for the first time in his career.
“He’s not the most outspoken, but he’s certainly not quiet,” Belichick said, describing Chung’s leadership style. “He’s tough. He’s a tough football player. He has a great football-playing mentality, very competitive, plays well, has played against a lot of good players, plays against good players every week and competes hard every week.”
How tough is Chung? He’s missed just one game since returning to the Patriots in 2014 after a one-year stint in Philadelphia. Over the past two seasons, he’s played 1,934 defensive snaps, plus another 347 snaps on special teams. Only safety Devin McCourty and cornerback Malcolm Butler played more during that span.
In the 2017 playoffs, Chung was on the field for every defensive snap during the divisional round and AFC Championship Game, then battled through an injury to play 84 percent of snaps in Super Bowl LII, all while lining up at one of the game’s most physically demanding positions.
“If you can run,” Chung told NESN.com’s Doug Kyed during Super Bowl week, “then you can play.”
Chung’s disdain for leaving the field doesn’t just apply to games, either. He’s the same way in practice, even frequently running with the scout team.
“He’s out there on everything,” Belichick said. “He’s out there on defense, special teams. He runs a lot of scout-team plays for us on offense, kind of like Rodney (Harrison) used to do. He just loves to get out there and play and compete. He’s in great condition. He can go all day. He can go hard all day.
“He’s a very well-conditioned athlete with good playing strength, good instincts, good toughness. He’s a very versatile guy, does a lot for us and does a lot for our team, whatever we ask him to do.”
Asked what position Chung, who made a cameo at quarterback during training camp, plays on the scout team, Belichick responded: “Anywhere.”
“Wherever we want him,” the coach said. “Not in the interior line, but yeah, he can play anywhere.”
Chung is part of a veteran safeties group that has produced three team captains: himself, McCourty and Duron Harmon. Nate Ebner also has been one of the leaders of the Patriots’ special teams units throughout his career.
“We have a very strong room at safety with Duron, who’s been a captain, Nate Ebner, Chung, McCourty,” Belichick said. “It’s about as strong as a room as you can have. Those guys all do a good job.”
New England’s 2018 captains, which were announced Thursday, are Chung, McCourty, quarterback Tom Brady, center David Andrews, running back James White and special teamer Matthew Slater.
Thumbnail photo via David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports Images