It wasn't too long ago that Patrick Chung was a rising star with the Patriots. The sixth-year safety was drafted by New England in the second round of the 2009 draft. It didn't take long before he took the reins of the starting safety position.
Last year, in his first year of free agency after a lackluster performance for the Patriots in 2012, which included his benching, he signed a three-year, $10 million deal to be with his former college coach Chip Kelly and the Philadelphia Eagles. It seemed to be a match made for Chung, who had exhausted his opportunities as a starter in New England.
In the end, in 2012, Chung only played three defensive snaps in the Patriots' divisional playoff and AFC Championship games. At that point in the season, the team had opted for a combination of Devin McCourty and Steve Gregory at safety, with Alfonzo Dennard, Aqib Talib, and Kyle Arrington manning the cornerback positions. The Patriots cut Gregory on Feb. 28.
Moving on to Philadelphia was supposed to give Chung an opportunity to make good on all of the promise he showed while with the Patriots and likely in a more friendly environment with Kelly. But he struggled. He played in 10 games and was beset by injuries, finishing the year with 59 tackles while giving up the most touchdowns on the team in pass coverage (five).
This year, he was due to make $3.25 million with the Eagles but was cut on March 11. He comes to the Patriots with the view that he is a depth signing, meant to backup McCourty and possibly Duron Harmon, while pushing them in practice.
"Iím glad to be back. Itís like family here. It feels like home," Chung said in a conference call with reporters Thursday. "Iím glad to be back. I love the fans, love the coaches, love the environment, love the city. It was like a blessing."
It's still tough for Chung to square with why he's no longer in Philadelphia.
"I canít really tell you why things didnít work out in Philly," Chung said. "I donít make those decisions. You know, Philly is a great city, there are a lot of great people there; great locker room, great coaches. But I feel now that this has happened, I feel like itís a better fit here. Iíve been here for four years. I know the system, I know the coaches. The coaches are cool. I know most of the players. All locker rooms change but I know most of the players. This is a good environment. Iíve been here for a while so I feel like part of me is home. Iím always going to come back here regardless. I always came back here to help the city regardless of where I was. Now Iím back in the city that gave me my very first chance, my very first opportunity, so I feel like it's home."
Chung has an opportunity to continue to grow here, again. But even now, he doesn't see himself as having changed, improved or not, despite a year in Philadelphia.
"I donít feel Iím any different. Iím just going to continue to keep working, keep getting better, whatever I can do to help the team, whatever role I might have to play," he said. "I feel Iím the same. The scheme, I guess, would fit a lot better. Iíve had a lot of conversations so I just feel like this would be the best fit right now. Plus, Iím really glad to be back, too. Iíve missed you guys."
He'll get his chances. That's for sure.