Longtime New England Patriots safety Patrick Chung reverses course, announces NFL retirement

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Longtime New England Patriots safety Patrick Chung, who had intended to play this season after opting out of the 2020 NFL campaign, has reversed course and announced his retirement Thursday.

Chung, 33, said on Instagram that "it's time to start a new life."

This would have been Chung's 12th season in the NFL and 11th with the Patriots. He has played in 153 career regular-season games (122 starts) in addition to 23 playoff games (20 starts).

Having originally joined the team as a second-round draft choice in 2009 out of the University of Oregon, Chung was part of three Super Bowl championship teams in New England. He had spent one season with the Philadelphia Eagles, in 2013, but returned the next season and said the only coach he planned to play for was Bill Belichick.

In his Instagram post, Chung said he was making his retirement announcement through tears, thanking Belichick for "teaching me life on and off the field."

Chung, whose toughness, versatility and work ethic were often noted by Belichick, is the only player in NFL history to appear in the playoffs in each of his first 11 seasons. He was selected as a member of the Patriots' 2010s All-Decade Team.

Chung opted out of the 2020 season for family considerations, telling CBS in an interview, "It was a tough decision. You want to play football. I'm in the latter end of my career, but when it comes down to it, I feel money is not that important. I have a girlfriend who is pregnant, a baby girl coming soon, my son has a little asthma, my dad is 75 years old. I just felt like this was the best decision for my family to keep everyone safe. It's not over, it's just postponed a little bit."

Along those lines, Chung had been working out recently at Gillette Stadium, signifying his plans to play again in 2021. But things obviously changed in recent weeks.

The Patriots are deep at safety, with returning starters Devin McCourty and Adrian Phillips, and top 2020 draft pick Kyle Dugger returning. They also struck a four-year, $24 million agreement with free-agent defensive back Jalen Mills, who had switched from cornerback to safety last season with the Eagles.