|Yes, Mr. Harrison||04.30.09 at 12:38 pm ET|
FOXBOROUGH – Patrick Chung is wise beyond his years.
When the safety out of Oregon was asked the most obvious question about being drafted by the New England Patriots to potentially replace veteran hard-hitting safety Rodney Harrison, he gave Harrison the respect that comes with playing and winning for a decade and a half in the NFL.
“Everybody is their own player. Mr. Harrison is his own player, I’m my own player, Brandon Merriweather is his own player, James Sanders is his own player,” Chung said. “It’s just what you bring to the table, what you bring to the team, and what’s best suited for the schemes and the defense, what makes the defense better. I’ll do whatever Coach Belichick asks me to do, regardless of what it is.”
Putting it another way, Chung is no Josh Freeman. To refresh, Freeman, the rookie Tampa Bay quarterback out of Kansas State, last weekend dissed veteran QB Byron Leftwich by calling his free agent signing a ‘smokescreen’ to keep other teams from drafting him.
Chung knows he can learn a lot from Harrison if the veteran is willing, able and present when veterans report this summer.
“He’s one of the best,” Chung said of Harrison. “He can teach me everything he’s learned. I don’t know how he’s been playing in the teens (years of NFL experience). It would be a great honor for him to teach me, teach me everything he knows. When you learn from the best and you practice like the best has practiced, you have no choice but to become a leader and be the best player out there.”
Like Harrison, there are critics of Chung who say he can hit but not always cover the deep pass down the field. And like Harrison, Chung just wants a chance to quiet those critics with some loud hits.
“We’ll see,” Chung said. “There’s a lot of critics out there. We’ll see and I’m going to work my hardest to get to my potential where I have no critics at all. I’m just going to be working my hardest to get to my full potential.”
Chung, who graduated in December from Oregon, said he will try to be economical and smart with his hits.
“You can strike fear into people,” Chung said. “You can change a player’s perspective on a game. But you have to know when to hit also. I’m just always a big hitter, big hitter. You have to know when to hit. You have to know when to break down and tackle and bring them down. I’m a smart tackler. But one hit could change the whole game, the whole offense.”
The Patriots introduced their first overall pick on Thursday at Gillette Stadium, with owner Robert Kraft and his son Jonathan presenting Chung with a throw-back red jersey with the No. 1 on it.
And while everyone is drawing comparisons to Rodney Harrison, Robert Kraft had another former Patriot in mind when he spoke at the photo op on the South End concourse just after 11 a.m.
“It’s always exciting for us to be able to have the first person that we’ve had in the draft come and Jonathan and I present him with his new shirt,” Kraft said. “To think 16 years ago was Willie McGinest and he’s still playing in the league.”
Chung was drafted in the second round, the 34th pick overall, and will report with the 11 other picks and undrafted rookie free agents for three days beginning Friday at Gillette.
“I know there’s a lot of responsibility, not pressure. You just have to come in and play and bring your ‘A’ game every time. I’m going to do whatever Coach Belichick asks me. I’m ready to go. I’m ready to put some pads on.”
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