New England Patriots safety Patrick Chung pleaded not guilty to felony cocaine possession charges on Monday following his indictment on Aug. 21.
As reported by the Associated Press, Chung will waive his arraignment, which was scheduled for Wednesday in New Hampshire. He won't have to appear in court again until Nov. 8.
That timing could be crucial for Chung’s chances of playing this season because his court date falls during the Patriots’ bye week.
There's a strong possibility that Chung's case won't come to a conclusion for months, meaning he could escape punishment from the league entirely this season. The NFL typically does not suspend players under its substance-abuse policy until the legal system issues a ruling.
Cocaine found at Chung’s house in New Hampshire
A grand jury indicted Chung on Aug. 8 on charges that date back to June 25. Police say they found cocaine inside his lakeside home in Meredith, N.H., after responding to a possible break-in when his alarm went off.
Chung, who also has a house closer to Gillette Stadium, was not on the premises when the cocaine was found.
Chung has not appeared in any of the Patriots’ three preseason games and was reportedly not at practice on Wednesday after the indictment. He made his return to practice on Sunday, and it’s not known if the team plans to play him in its final preseason game on Thursday, when the Patriots have traditionally rested their starters.
What does this mean for the Patriots?
There’s no way around it: it would be a huge boon for the Patriots if Chung can avoid a suspension this season. It will be up to them if they want to play him before his Nov. 8 hearing, but it would be a surprise for them to not want to play one of their top defenders.
A second-round pick in 2009, Chung has been an integral member of the team's secondary since his one-year hiatus with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2013. He finished second on the team with 84 tackles last season and has averaged 86 per season the last five years.
One potential problem down the road, though, could be if the delayed hearing causes Chung to miss time at the end of the season or even the playoffs. If he avoided jail time, he could still face a suspension from the league.
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