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Arrington enjoying the ride

Patriots cornerback thankful for opportunity

Since stepping into a starting role in Week 3, Patriots cornerback Kyle Arrington said “it’s been a learning experience on and off the field.’’ Arrington had a key defensive TD last Sunday. Since stepping into a starting role in Week 3, Patriots cornerback Kyle Arrington said “it’s been a learning experience on and off the field.’’ Arrington had a key defensive TD last Sunday. (Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff)
By Monique Walker
Globe Staff / December 24, 2010

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FOXBOROUGH — Cornerback Kyle Arrington placed his organizer on the chair in front of his locker. He adjusted his fleece jacket and then stiffened his posture as the crowd of cameras and reporters surged toward him on Wednesday.

He gave his thoughts on Sunday’s opponents, the Bills. Shared a little humor about offensive lineman Dan Connolly being selected AFC special teams player of the week. And explained how he and his Patriots teammates stay focused during the holidays.

This time last year, the 24-year-old Arrington was hidden among the many contributors on special teams. When he came out of the shower after games, he often had to wait for the crowd of media talking to safety Brandon Meriweather to disperse before he could get to his belongings. Now he is the guy with the microphones and recorders in his face.

Arrington stepped into a starting role in Week 3 when Darius Butler was benched after struggling in the first two games. The situation remains new to Arrington, but he isn’t overwhelmed by the changes.

“I try to do my best to just live in the moment,’’ Arrington said. “It has been a wild ride so far. It’s been a learning experience on and off the field. Even with the media and stuff like that, I’m not used to it. I’m still learning.’’

Arrington, in his second NFL season, views just being on the 53-man roster as a blessing. In 2008, Arrington signed with the Eagles as a rookie free agent out of Hofstra, but didn’t make it beyond their practice squad. He ended up with the Buccaneers’ practice squad in 2009, and was promoted to the roster for one game before he was waived.

This time, the Patriots picked up Arrington. He was on the practice squad, eventually added to the roster, and played in eight games, primarily on special teams. He was second on the team with 17 special teams tackles. When Arrington thinks back on 2009, he remembers the impact the long season can have on a player.

“Mind you, I only played special teams and that was half of the season, and I was still pretty beat up physically,’’ Arrington said. “I was thinking, ‘Wow, I don’t know how these offensive and defensive guys do it.’ Now I’m in this situation and the thing about it is, I was one of the guys who just comes to practice, comes to the game, and then goes home.

“I wasn’t really worried about taking care of my body physically. This year, with the more responsibility I have, I had to put in the extra hour in the training room just trying to stay right physically.’’

Linebacker Rob Ninkovich can relate to Arrington. Ninkovich also was primarily a special teams contributor last season, and toward the end of the year saw more snaps on defense. This year, Ninkovich has worked his way into a regular role.

“I’ve been ready not to just be a special teams guy for a long time now,’’ Ninkovich said. “All I needed was an opportunity like Kyle and a lot of these guys just to go make plays. So far I’ve tried to make the best of my opportunities, and I want to continue to do that.’’

Arrington, like Ninkovich, hasn’t given up his special teams duties, he’s only added to them. Last Sunday against the Packers, Arrington had a 36-yard interception return for a touchdown early in the second half that helped the Patriots to a 31-27 victory. It was Arrington’s first interception and pick-6 of his career. Earlier this season, he returned a blocked field goal 35 yards for a touchdown against the Dolphins.

“I’ve believed, even on special teams, [Bill Belichick’s] philosophy is whoever is doing their job and playing well and practicing well, they’re going to play,’’ Arrington said. “That’s what he believes in and that’s what the team believes in and we take it from there.’’

The Patriots are getting plenty of value out of Arrington. Belichick even used him as a pass rusher against the Colts. He has 62 tackles this season, 15 on special teams.

“Kyle’s a guy that works hard,’’ Belichick said. “He did a good job for us last year. On special teams, he led the team in tackles. He was very productive, had a good training camp. He’s got good speed. He’s tough, he tackles well. He’s aggressive. When he’s had an opportunity, he’s done a good job at taking advantage of it.’’

The ride isn’t one Arrington wants to see end any time soon, but he understands how quickly it all can change.

“I used to be on the other end of things and now it’s crazy,’’ Arrington said. “I’m definitely blessed and fortunate.’’

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