FOXBORO -- Patrick Chung enters 2012 on the last year of his rookie contract.
Asked Thursday if he's happy to have another season, Chung missed the point.
"Who's not excited for that?" he laughed. "I love playing football. It's always exciting."
The moment provides an interesting glimpse as to his state of mind. It seems Chung is happily absorbed in OTAs, in the immediacy of New England's present moment.
You cant think about that stuff now, he said, once directed to contract talk. Thats when you make mistakes. Youve got to go into every season like everything is the same and nothing has changed.
Every year is the same. Youve got to ball out, regardless if its year one to year four. Youve got to play hard. Im not really worried about it.
So money isn't on the man's mind? Yeah, right. Any athlete would be a fool not to consider his future. It's just that Chung has plenty else to consider in the here and now.
More responsibility in a leadership role, for one thing.
"Coaches on the sideline give us information; youve got to have someone to relay it out there. I have to take charge and be mentally prepared," he said. "Everybody is physical, fast, strong, big, but the smarter guy always wins. So Im trying to be smarter than everybody."
Second round pick Tavon Wilson will need schooling at safety. Offseason acquisition Steve Gregory is a seven-year veteran, but new to the Patriots system. And there are other changes -- more vets, more pups -- to the rest of what was a much-maligned secondary last season.
We all help each other. Regardless of who is safety or whos at corner. If CB Devin McCourty sees something I dont see, hell tell me. If I see something that he doesnt see, Ill tell him. Its kind of like a brotherhood, youre going to tell your brothers what your going to tell them, whether its bad or its good."
There was too much of the bad, too much inconsistency overall last year. Beyond the group's struggles, Chung's personal development was derailed by a foot injury that forced him to miss half the regular season.
He said he's put it all -- Super Bowl disappointment included -- behind him.
The offseason is the offseason. You get out of it, but youre ready to get back into it. Im glad to be back with my boys. Its time to play some ball.
This is an important year for the Patriots safety. In more ways than one.