Reserve may be something special
Arrington finding a way for Patriots
At first, Kyle Arrington didn’t believe he couldn’t go home again.
Just a few days before the Patriots’ Week 13 game against Miami last season, the third-year cornerback was in the locker room when a reporter approached him with the news. Hofstra, Arrington’s alma mater, had cut its football program.
Arrington thought it was a prank. The reporter had gone to a rival school, and Arrington figured the joke was on him. But after checking a few texts and websites on his phone, it became apparent that this was no hoax.
“It’s definitely sad,’’ Arrington said. “I’m an alumni. It’s my alma mater. But there’s no program. I mean, what’s the homecoming going to be, soccer?
“I was devastated. I just felt bad for the underclassmen that had eligibility left, that had to transfer and find new schools.’’
The 24-year-old Accokeek, Md., native knows all about being forced to find a new place to call home. When Arrington signed with the Patriots in November 2009, it was his third team in two seasons.
But in just 10 games for New England, Arrington was able to find a place to call his own: special teams. He recorded at least one special teams tackle in all but one of his appearances and became a standout on kick coverage.
“He came in and fit right in and physically kind of matched up in the positions that we needed him in, and like you said, was very successful for us,’’ said special teams coach Scott O’Brien. “Hopefully we can continue that with him and this year even be able to adjust even more.’’
While many teams experience a lot of variation in the performance of their special teams units from season to season, the Patriots’ kicking game has stayed relatively consistent in the Bill Belichick era. The front office and coaching staff put a priority on finding players who will perform well in smaller roles. Arrington hopes that the dedication that he’s displayed so far shows that he is the type of player that this regime covets.
“I hope it says that I’m one of the hardest workers that ever comes to the table,’’ Arrington said. “I hope it says I work hard and take pride in what I do, whatever I do. It says that I’m going to put my brand on it and represent it.’’
Asked whether he thought a good special teams player was made by instinct or technique, Arrington hedged.
“It’s nature versus nurture,’’ he said.
Arrington emphasized the need for fundamentals and drill work, complimenting O’Brien for being a coach who does an effective job of teaching both. But in the end, he said, being a special teams standout is more about what someone has than what they can learn.
“It’s a want-to,’’ Arrington said. “It’s a want thing.’’
Arrington’s position as a natural special teamer was on display to its fullest in New England’s Week 16 game against Jacksonville. In just his eighth game with the team, Arrington recorded a season-high five special teams tackles. It was the highest total for a Patriot since former Pro Bowl special teamer Larry Izzo had six in a 2002 game.
Izzo’s name has become emblematic in football for what kind of a career a player can have through special teams. When it is brought up to Arrington, he says his approach makes him the type of player that can thrive in the same situation.
“I’m one of those guys who will embrace whatever role is bestowed upon him,’’ Arrington said.
“Whatever play I’m on the field, I’m getting to the ball, or I’m trying to get a hand on the ball.’’
While he has embraced his role on special teams, Arrington acknowledged that any player would want more time and more opportunities to be an every-down player. That ambition is what makes the dog days of training camp invaluable for a player like him.
Earlier in the week, during a pass-rush drill for defensive backs and running backs, Arrington was doing everything he could to get to the quarterback, including spin moves and other tricks. Following practice, veteran running back Fred Taylor mentioned Arrington’s name when talking about some of the younger players on the roster.
For Arrington, the weeks leading up to the preseason aren’t just for making the roster. They can also be used to show the coaching staff the impact he can bring in specific situations.
“When you bring a guy like a Brandon Meriweather or Devin McCourty, you know, a big D-1 guy, you’ve seen tons of film on them,’’ Arrington said. “You know what they bring to the table. That’s why you drafted them in the first round.
“A guy like me, an undrafted guy who goes under the radar, [training camp drills are] definitely beneficial.’’
Arrington understands that as a Patriot, being versatile will always be an advantage.
“I’m just trying to come out here and show the coaches what I can bring to the table, just to give me a little more value and maybe play a little more defense,’’ Arrington said.
“You just want to capitalize on every opportunity that you get.’’