Retired Patriots safety Patrick Chung’s new passion: ‘Constant chaos’ of rugby

NFL

QUINCY, Mass. — Recently retired New England Patriots safety Patrick Chung suddenly has a lot of free time on his hands. He is planning on the Free Jacks helping to fill it.

Chung, 33, is transitioning into his post-playing NFL career by gently dipping into the sports ownership ranks, joining forces with a handful of others as part owner of the New England Free Jacks of Major League Rugby. The Free Jacks, run by CEO Alex Magleby, became an expansion franchise in 2018.

The former Patriot has become a quick fan of the sport, summing it up this way: “It’s constant chaos. You try to rip each other’s head off, and then have a beer after. I like that.”

Chung was indeed indulging in an adult beverage as he watched the Free Jacks’ season finale against Rugby ATL at rocking Veterans Memorial Stadium here on Sunday night. His team posted a 22-19 victory, the type of result Chung became familiar with over his two stints with the Patriots, first from 2009 to 2012 and then 2014 to 2019 when he was a key cog of three Super Bowl-winning teams.

Chung said former Patriots teammate Nate Ebner, who is also a part owner of the Free Jacks, opened his eyes to the sport. Ebner, of course, also played on the United States national rugby sevens team.

So as Chung looks at what’s ahead for him, he relayed that he hopes to “enjoy life for a minute,” focusing on fatherhood and the Free Jacks, while adding, “Hopefully, we can get this going.”

“There’s no ‘soft’ in rugby. In football, you have pads on. You can dive at ankles. In rugby, … [it’s] chest up, grab them and you have to take the pain. That’s what I respect about these guys,” he said.

“No pads. No injuries, really. Not nearly as much as football. It’s all about technique and form. In pads, you can hide it a little bit. Out here, you can’t hide it.”

Would Chung, who was listed at 5-foot-11 and 215 pounds on the Patriots’ roster, consider playing rugby?

“Keep me out of the scrum and I’m good,” he joked.

As Chung held court with reporters on Sunday, he peeled back the curtain a bit on his decision to retire from football this spring. He had opted out of the 2020 NFL season and said he woke up one morning this spring and realized it was time to hang up his cleats.

His anxiety was high as he prepared to relay his decision to his coach.

“I just went and talked to Bill [Belichick]. That was probably the hardest conversation I’ve had in a while. I respect him. He respects me. It’s more than player to coach with me and Bill,” Chung said. “I felt like I was letting him down, but it was something I had to do for my family and me.”

As for his message to Patriots fans, Chung said, “I’m always going to love you. You’re in my heart forever.”

Chung still refers to the Patriots as “we” when discussing the team, and he even joked, “I ran a couple sprints yesterday. I’m still young. We’ll see how it goes.”

He also has remained connected with several players on the team, and he said he was flattered by second-year safety Kyle Dugger reaching out to him to ask if he could wear his No. 23 jersey.

“That’s huge respect. A lot of people don’t have to ask: If it’s open, take it. For him to call and ask, when he didn’t have to, I appreciated that,” Chung said.

“He asked me for the number and I said, ‘Yes, absolutely.’ I told him to take it over. I pray to God he’s way better than I am, because that’s only going to help us as Patriots. Hopefully, he gets to that point. I hope he can. He’s young, he’s raw, he has the instincts, has all the intangibles, so I’m praying for that.”

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