FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) -Patrick Chung loves to smack opponents to the ground. Now he'd love to learn about playing safety in the NFL from a master - Rodney Harrison.
The New England Patriots' top draft choice already knows one thing that the 15-year veteran could reinforce if he returns to the team - hitting is intimidating.
Harrison earned a reputation as a hard hitter, sometimes incurring NFL fines. But his 2008 season ended in his sixth game when he tore a thigh muscle. He is a free agent and hasn't said if he'll play again. The Patriots haven't said if they want him back.
Harrison would ease Chung's transition to the NFL from Oregon, where he started a school-record 51 straight games. The Patriots drafted Chung with the second pick of the second round after trading out of the first round last Saturday.
It would be a great honor for him to teach me everything he knows,'' Chung said Thursday, the day before the Patriots' three-day rookie minicamp.When you learn from the best and you are practicing how the best have practiced, you have no choice but to become a leader and be the best player out there.''
He was both of those at Oregon - a leader in a complex defense and, at times, the best player on the field. And one of the most fearless.
He knew the value of smashing receivers and runners.
You can strike fear into people,'' Chung said.You can change a player's perspective on the game, but you have to know when to hit also. I'm just not a big hitter. You have to know when to hit, when to break down, tackle and bring him down, and you have to know when to take your big hits.
``I'm a smart tackler. But it could change the game. One hit could change the game. It could change the whole offense.''
Sounds like a major part of the Harrison playbook.
Everybody is their own player,'' Chung said.Mr. Harrison is his own player. I'm my own player.''
The Patriots drafted the son of a former reggae singer and music producer with the pick they received by trading quarterback Matt Cassel and linebacker Mike Vrabel to Kansas City.
Born in Jamaica, Chung didn't know football. He played soccer. When he was 10, he moved to California. He began playing football as a freshman at Rancho Cucamonga High School east of Los Angeles with a simple goal: Go to college.
I got into college and I'm playing pretty good,'' Chung said.I'm playing pretty good the next year, and then, 'Oh man, maybe I can get to the next level.' And it just hit me and that's when I started going hard. I started thinking (that) I could start taking care of my family.''
Now he could become the main backup to young safeties Brandon Meriweather and James Sanders.
The biggest transition is that you have to be smart,'' Chung said.Everybody is good on the field and you have to get your edge in the film room. (If) you study the film day in and day out, nighttime and morning, you will eventually get an edge on the players you're playing against and that's going to make the game easier.
``My philosophy is go hard in practice, super hard, until you can't walk.''
Chung is the sixth defensive player in nine years drafted by the Patriots with their first pick. The other five all are making major contributions - defensive linemen Richard Seymour in 2001, Ty Warren (2003) and Vince Wilfork (2004), Meriweather (2007) and inside linebacker Jerod Mayo (2008).
Mayo was named the NFL's defensive rookie of the year.
He's a great player and he deserved everything he got,'' Chung said.I'm going to go hard and hopefully it works out.''