Chung thrilled to return to action

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Chung thrilled to return to action

FOXBORO -- The Patriots are very, very happy to have Patrick Chung back.

"It's huge," said Kyle Arrington. "Pat's a physical presence to our secondary. He's a great playmaker so it speaks volumes having him back."

But nobody was as excited as Chung.

Usually a hard-nosed competitor who keeps interviews strictly to business, the safety was enlivened Sunday night. He stood before his locker getting ready, then turned to accept the media huddle with open arms. Chung hasn't seen game action since Week 9 because of the foot injury; answering questions was no inconvenience because it meant he finally got to play.

"It feels good, man," he smiled. "Feels good to be back with my family -- my brothers out there -- just having some fun.

"The first play I was definitely nervous. First play I got a little bug, but after that it kind of went away and the game just comes to you. You just play football."

It didn't look as though he has missed a beat.

Chung got involved immediately with a huge hit on Buffalo's first series. It was the fifth play of the game, on a Bills third-and-6. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick looked short to Stevie Johnson and got the completion, but Chung was right there -- he came flying out and drilled Johnson to hold the gain to five yards. Buffalo was forced to convert on a fourth down.

"It kind of got my body warmed up because I haven't hit anybody in a while," said Chung. "It's just football. I'm glad to be out there, I'm glad to be running out there with my guys."

Fresh legs out there, Pat?

"Six weeks, brother?!" he exclaimed with a derisive twist of the head. "This is fresh legs! That's as fresh as they can come."

He quickly returned to charm.

"But it's not about me, man. We just won. We just took the No. 1 seed so we're good."

Chung circled back several times during the scrum to the idea of "team" -- a common tact for the secondary. They comprise a crew that's guaranteed criticism after every game because of a league-worst defense that's been maddeningly consistent. Chung's absence absolutely contributed; replacing him has been experimental at best. Nate Jones tried by fire just a few days after being brought in, wideout and special teamer Matthew Slater shocked with a few starts at safety, and rookie cornerback Sterling Moore was also forced into service.

Nothing really seemed to work.

But for as much anxiety as Patriots fans have felt to watch this revolving door on defense, Chung has struggled too. He doesn't deny it was difficult to sit handcuffed the sideline. Was he happy New England won seven straight? Of course. He's just happier when forcing incompletions on fourth down. One quarterback hit and seven tackles against the Bills (best of the secondary, tied with Mayo and Anderson among all defenders) show he's already making a difference.

And not a moment too soon.

Crouched and waiting on the other side of the bye week is playoff football. Chung considers himself lucky to have squeaked in some regular season snaps before the postseason. Shutting out Buffalo for three quarters -- against the pressure of being down 21-0 -- is exactly what he needed.

"It's very important. You can't go just straight into the playoffs. You have to have a warm-up game to get your legs right, get your footwork going and get your mind back on football. And then see how it goes from there."

Tough to imagine things won't get better now.

OTA observations: Brady holds side sessions with new weapons

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OTA observations: Brady holds side sessions with new weapons

FOXBORO -- The Patriots went through their third OTA of the week on Thursday. It was the first that was open to members of the media and lasted approximately two hours.

Here are a handful of observations from the afternoon of work the Patriots put in under the sun on the practice fields behind Gillette Stadium . . . 

* The Patriots sported practice jerseys during the workout, which was noteworthy because in years past they have worn blank t-shirts during OTAs and minicamp. With the offense in white and the defense in blue -- and with every player assigned a number -- it made identifying players much easier. Why coach Bill Belichick opted to go this route is unclear, and it remains a possibility that the players will go without jersey numbers later in the spring. Still, it was a welcome sight for reporters trying to track the proceedings. Quarterbacks wore red non-contact jerseys and each player wore helmets and shorts. 

* Belichick appeared to make his players re-start the practice after they finished up their stretching period in a fashion that didn't satisfy the head coach. After breaking into position groups briefly, Belichick ordered players to get back into their warmup lines and finish more crisply. 

* With Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, LeGarrette Blount and Dion Lewis all absent from the practice, new Patriots weapons were given a chance to take extra reps. Running back Donald Brown was lauded by offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels after completing one particularly well-run route -- a slant-and-go, Martellus Bennett was the beneficiary of several targets from Tom Brady in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 work. 

* In 11-on-11 work, Brady went 6-for-9. Jimmy Garoppolo went 8-for-9. Jacoby Brissett went 7-for-12.

* In 7-on-7 work, Brady went 3-for-5. Garoppolo went 2-for-2. Brissett went 2-for-4, and he had one rep where he tucked it and ran. 

* During periods focused on special teams, Brady worked in a few side-sessions with different targets. In the past Brady has used these side sessions to get a little extra work in with a handful of players. Two years ago, he threw to Gronkowski with Darrelle Revis in coverage as Gronkowski worked his way back from a knee injury. Last year, Brady worked with Gronkowski and Scott Chandler together in order to develop some on-the-field chemistry there. On Thursday, Brady worked with two new tight ends -- Bennett and Clay Harbor -- as well as fullback James Develin. In another side session, he threw passes to Bennett, Aaron Dobson, Nate Washington, Malcolm Mitchell. Tight ends coach Brian Daboll ran the show during both periods.

* Rookie second-round pick Cyrus Jones, receiver Chris Harper, receiver DeAndre Carter and undrafted rookie corner V'Angelo Bentley all took turns returning punts. On Wednesday we took a look at how Edelman and Amendola might benefit from relinquishing those duties to another player. Jones would be an interesting choice given his production as a returner in college. 

* Bennett was asked to run a lap after dropping Brady's first offering of the 11-on-11 period. He recovered nicely as the day went on, however, making perhaps the most impressive grab of the day when he reached around Patrick Chung, plucked a Garoppolo pass out of the air and hung on as the two players tangled and fell to the turf. It was a good back-and-forth between the athletic tight end and perhaps the best defender of tight ends on the roster. Chung broke up one pass intended for Bennett, and Bennett later beat Chung to the corner of the end zone, reeling in a soft Brady lob. 

* Brissett appeared to rely on his ability to scramble, as he often did as the signal-caller at NC State. He hit throws on the run to Mitchell and rookie Devin Lucien. We'll see in practice sessions going forward if Brissett will be encouraged to stick in the pocket longer during these non-contact practices. 

* Brissett and Mitchell appear to have a good early connection. They hooked up for four of Brissett's nine completed passes. One was on an impressive pitch-and-catch that saw Mitchell lay out in the back of the end zone during 7-on7s. Later in 11-on-11s, Brissett sensed pressure coming from his blind side and lofted a deep pass to Mitchell that was completed along the sideline. 

* Brissett was picked off by Jones late in the practice but came back two plays later to complete a nice skinny post to Carter from about the 15-yard line.

* Brady's business partner and friend Alex Guerrero was spotted on the sidelines of the session. Former Patriots running back Sammy Morris was also present, shadowing running backs coach Ivan Fears. 

* Among the musical artists blared over the speakers during 11-on-11 work to mimic crowd noise were Guns N' Roses, James Brown, Bon Jovi, U2, Kenny Chesney and Desiigner. 

Gronkowski, Butler among missing from Thursday OTA session

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Gronkowski, Butler among missing from Thursday OTA session

FOXBORO -- The Patriots had a handful of surprise absences from Thursday's OTA session, the third such session of the week and the first that was open to reporters. 

Tight end Rob Gronkowski, corner Malcolm Butler, corner Logan Ryan and safety Duron Harmon were all missing from the session. The reason for their absences was unclear. 

Other players missing from the practice were receivers Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola, both of whom are recovering from offseason surgeries. Edelman was spotted wearing a boot on his surgically-repaired foot at Wednesday's Patriots fantasy camp at Gillette Stadium. 

Running backs LeGarrette Blount and Dion Lewis -- both of whom ended last season on injured reserve -- were also missing from the practice, as were offensive linemen Tre' Jackson, Shaq Mason, Josh Kline Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer. 

Defensive linemen Frank Kearse and Alan Branch were not present. Safety Nate Ebner, who is in the process of trying to make the US Olympic rugby squad, was also missing. 

Long-snapper Joe Cardona, who is currently fulfilling his duties as an active member of the Navy, was also not present Thursday. 

Jim Breuer reads purported Jastremski email to Toucher and Rich

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Jim Breuer reads purported Jastremski email to Toucher and Rich

On Toucher and Rich, comedian Jim Breuer reads an email he says he received from a man he met at a Mexican resort who said he was John Jastremski, a key figure in the Patriots’ Deflategate saga. 

Watch the video for more.