Chung could be worked into return game


Chung could be worked into return game

FOXBORO -- Two days of Patriots mini-camp have come and gone and Patrick Chung has a new assignment: Returns on special teams.

How's the Patriots safety liking it?

"It's fun," he grinned. "It's always fun having the ball in your hands. It's good, it's fun."

You can believe him, until someone brings up that ball he caught inside the 5 . . .

"Yeah. I got yelled at for that," Chung shrugged. "But it's part of learning. It's all good."

The concepts aren't new.

Chung was a special-teams ace at Oregon, mostly in coverage but also on returns. His first NCAA career attempt on a punt (his sophomore year, 2006) was brought back 59 yards for a touchdown. By his senior year, Chung was averaging 25.58 yards on 12 kickoff returns.

"I like both," he said of the task. "Punt returns are little harder because of the ball in the wind. It's kind of all the same. Just gotta catch it. Catch and run."

Maybe the Patriots didn't feel it was worth it to put the every-down safety at risk, but Chung said he hasn't done return work since his rookie year. A little digging uncovers the numbers: 7 returns. All in 2009's preseason.

Special teams coach Scott O'Brien said no offense should be taken.

He actually did a pretty good job for us there. I think it was the Washington game in preseason where he had one at the end of the game and he had a nice return that gave us the opportunity to win the game at the end . . . Hes had some issues and that kind of stuff, but weve never forgotten about Patrick.

Help needs to come from somewhere.

O'Brien said, after an underwhelming 2011 in the return game, the Patriots are still "concerned" about improving that particular phase. Hence the audition by Chung (and Stevan Ridley, and Devin McCourty, and Deion Branch, and Donte' Stallworth . . . ).

But there's still time.

Decisions won't be made this week; real evaluation begins during training camp. Chung just knows he has to be ready whether he's called on or not.

"They put you there, you've got to be able to do it."

Eric Mangini’s Spygate regret still haunts him


Eric Mangini’s Spygate regret still haunts him

One of the few positives that emerged from the NFL trumping up charges on the Patriots for deflating footballs?

It allowed Bill Belichick to, for a brief moment in January 2015, do a drive-by on the last time the NFL trumped-up charges on the franchise, back in 2007, when it pinched the team for brazenly ignoring repeated requests to cut the crap with the sideline filming of opposing coaches.

“Look, that’s a whole ‘nother discussion,” Belichick said during the “Mona Lisa Vito” press conference after AP’s Jimmy Golen asked whether the team stopped “pushing the envelope” on the rules after Spygate. “The guy’s giving signals in front of 80,000 people, OK? So we filmed him making signals out in front of 80,000 people like there were a lot of other teams doing at that time, too. Forget about that. If we were wrong, then we’ve been disciplined for that.

“The guy is in front of 80,000 people, 80,000 people saw it. Everybody on the sideline saw it,” Belichick said. “Everybody sees our guy in front of 80,000 people. There he is. So, it was wrong and we were disciplined for it. That’s it. Again, we are never going to do it again and anything that’s close, we aren’t going to do it, either.”

That brief but telling detour revealed that, while the Patriots acknowledged what they did and owned it, the absurdity of the league prosecuting the Patriots at the level they did – a first-round pick, $750,000 in fines – only served to cement the franchise’s belief they were being singled out and scapegoated.

This week, Eric Mangini – the former Jets coach who put the league onto the Patriots that day – said he’s still bothered that the request for sideline vigilance turned into a permanent stain on Belichick’s record.

“Spygate is a big regret,” Mangini told Brian Costello of the New York Post . “It wasn’t supposed to go down the way it went down.”

Mangini was as close with Belichick as any of his coterie of Cleveland coaches. After graduating Wesleyan – Belichick’s alma mater – Mangini became a Browns’ ballboy and PR intern in 1994. 

He was with Belichick from there, through the time with the Jets in the late ‘90s and then in New England where he became Patriots defensive coordinator in 2005 before leaving to coach the Jets in 2006.

"He was my mentor. He taught me everything, and I respect him tremendously. That's not [BS],” Mangini told Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio in 2010. “That's how I feel. I hope at some point, we'll be able to sit down and talk about things and get back to a better relationship."

Judging by the context of Mangini’s comments to Costello, things haven’t been smoothed over.

“There was no great value in what they were doing,” Mangini said. “It wasn’t worth it. It wasn’t worth it to me personally. It wasn’t worth it to the relationship. … I cared about him. I didn’t want to hurt him. I didn’t want to hurt the Patriots. They were a huge part of my life, too, and the Kraft family. The Krafts were always great to me. It wasn’t like I was thinking I really want to get these guys. My thought was I don’t want to put my team at a competitive disadvantage, no matter how small.”

Mangini was let go by the 49ers in the offseason with two years left on his defensive coordinator’s contract. He’s currently doing some analysis for FOX and is living with his family in Cleveland. I reached out to Mangini on Wednesday but he said he didn’t want to continue to rehash the events of 2007. 


Is Tom Brady mentally ready to finish his career elsewhere?


Is Tom Brady mentally ready to finish his career elsewhere?

The discussion on the future of Tom Brady is only going to intensify as the days, months or years tick off his career. Will that legendary career end as a member of the New England Patriots? Listen to the insightful discussion on this week's "Quick Slants The Podcast". Tom E. Curran says Tom Brady is mentally prepared to finish his career elsewhere.

Tom E. Curran, Phil Perry, and guest Mike Giardi have a spirited discussion about which quarterback should start against the Bills.

Curran and Bills columnist Tim Graham put Rex Ryan on the couch.

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