Cleveland Browns v New England Patriots
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The New England Patriots were set to have a plethora of key players returning to the club in 2021 after opting out last year. Key among them was safety Patrick Chung. Instead, the 33-year-old veteran noted that he woke up one morning this past spring and realized it was time for him to call it a career and retire. While most folks found out about Chung's retirement via a post on social media, the safety naturally had to inform those within the Patriots organization directly. That includes Bill Belichick, which Chung recently admitted was one of the more difficult conversations he's had in quite a bit. 

"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, via ESPN. "I felt like I was letting him down, but it was something I had to do for my family and me."

Chung spent 10 of his 11 seasons playing in New England stretched over two different tenures. After spending the 2013 season with the Eagles and returning to Foxborough the following year, Chung evolved into a key piece within the Patriots defense that went on to win three Super Bowls over his final six seasons. Bill Belichick has even been on record noting that New England switching Chung to more of a box safety and covering opposing tight ends truly unlocked his potential during that second stint. 

Judging by how anxious he was to tell Belichick that he was retiring because he didn't want to let him down, there's a clear respect for the head coach, and that feeling appears to be mutual. Previously, Belichick has noted that Chung was "one of the best players in the league" so there are some big shoes to fill in Foxborough. As for who may fill Chung's spot, it could be second-year safety Kyle Dugger, who'll now be wearing Chung's former No. 23 after he asked his permission earlier this offseason. 

"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."

During Chung's last on-field season with New England, he totaled 51 tackles and three passes defended