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."