Patrick Chung hasn't played for the Patriots this preseason, but in Detroit and Nashville he was very much an in-game presence. He sent signals in to the defense. He chatted with players on the bench about their assignments. He was a coach of sorts, in uniform despite not planning to play.
But on Thursday night when the Patriots beat the Panthers, 10-3, Chung was nowhere to be found. Earlier in the day, news broke that Chung had been indicted on felony cocaine possession charges in New Hampshire. It's not expected that he'll face league discipline until the legal process plays out, but Chung's absence was notable. This is, after all, a player who broke his arm in Super Bowl LIII and remained on the sidelines after being fitted with a sling.
After Thursday's game with Carolina, some of Chung's teammates were asked for their thoughts on his situation.
"Obviously, Pat is a great guy," said safety Duron Harmon. "A leader. A captain. A great father. Can't talk about all the good things about Pat. Obviously, it's an ongoing investigation and all I can say is that we're rooting for Pat, we love Pat, and we're going to do everything we can to rally behind Pat and make sure he gets through this."
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"Praying for the best for him," said safety Terrance Brooks. "I know I'm praying for him, whatever's going on. I know everything will work out itself. Just gotta keep moving . . . When I heard the news I just prayed for him and that's all we can do right now just let the rest take care of itself."
Team representatives at the podium following Thursday's game elaborated less.
Devin McCourty: "I don't have [a reaction]. I'm like all of you guys. We'll see what happens."
Bill Belichick: "I think we released a statement on that."
But McCourty and Belichick have for years been among Chung's biggest supporters. Even if the team might not have to worry about playing meaningful games without him in 2019 because of his indictment, it's something that impacted the locker room for at least one night.
"He's a captain. He's a leader. The good thing is we have other leaders too," Harmon said. "At this point, one of our leaders is down and all we can do is have other leaders step up and try to take his place.
"Obviously you can't take Pat's place because he's a tremendous football player and a tremendous leader. But other guys had to step up and that's what they did."
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