Newly retired Patrick Chung may have hung up his cleats, but he’s still influencing current members of the Patriots roster.
Second-year linebacker Josh Uche shared Tuesday that a piece of advice from Chung has resonated strongly with him this offseason. The two ran into each other at the training facility shortly after Chung announced his retirement, so Uche decided to pick the three-time Super Bowl champion’s brain.
“He said something that stuck with me, which was, ‘Learn till you die,’ ” Uche recalled via Zoom. “The moment that you think you know everything is the moment that you’ve lost. I’m just trying to learn every day and get better every day.”
Uche, 22, drafted in the second round in 2020, has embraced that mind-set.
At the conclusion of last season — in which he registered nine tackles, including seven quarterback hits and a sack — Uche elected to stay in the Greater Boston area. He has rehabbed from the season-ending foot injury that landed him on injured reserve in Week 16, while also continuing to study the playbook.
Uche has carved out time to watch past Super Bowls and other big games from New England’s history. He specifically admired the aggressiveness of defensive legends such as linebacker Willie McGinest, safety Rodney Harrison, and defensive tackle Richard Seymour.
“You’ve got to continue to learn,” Uche said. “You don’t know it all. You should never go in thinking you have all the answers.”
He’s not the only one tapping into the franchise’s list of accomplished players. Second-year safety Kyle Dugger, too, has received advice from Chung.
What has been his biggest takeaway?
“Grab things,” said Dugger, 25. “Take hold of them. Trust yourself. Trust what you’ve learned, what you’ve been taught my first year. Trust yourself to really be able to take off and use everything to be able to play faster and allow yourself to be in your own rhythm.”
Dugger and Chung never got a chance to play together because Chung opted out of last season amid the coronavirus pandemic. But Dugger said Chung is “definitely” the kind of player he’d like to model his game after because of his versatility. He noted that he’s watched practice clips of Chung nearly every other day this offseason.
After experiencing an atypical rookie offseason, Uche and Dugger both mentioned how they’ve enjoyed getting to form closer relationships with their teammates, coaches, trainers, and staff now that restrictions have softened.
As for any advice they’d pass along to the incoming class of rookies?
“Just keep grinding,” Uche said. “You’re going to face adversity. Things aren’t going to go exactly how you envisioned them in your head sometimes. It’s just all about survival of the fittest, mentally. It’s easy to get drained out mentally and start going through the motions, but you’ve got to push through that.”
The numbers game
Uche is switching his jersey number from 53 to 55 because linebacker Kyle Van Noy has re-signed with the team and will be taking his number back. Said Uche: “I’m just happy to even have a jersey to wear on Sundays.” Linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley also is making a change, one that is allowed as a result of the league’s allowance of a wider range of numbers at each position. Bentley will now wear 8 instead of 51. New defensive back Jalen Mills is taking advantage of the updated uniform rules, going with No. 2. Wide receiver Kendrick Bourne announced he is wearing No. 84 … The Patriots officially announced the signings of quarterback Brian Hoyer and sixth-round draft pick Joshuah Bledsoe, a safety, Tuesday. The team also released offensive lineman Najee Toran, who had opted out of the 2020 season.
Nicole Yang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.