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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Kyle Arrington came to the New England Patriots with a meager resume.
College football at little Hofstra, a program that isn’t even in existence anymore. Undrafted in the NFL. Waived twice by the Philadelphia Eagles. Waived two more times by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Now check out his updated bio, the one that has him as the league leader with four interceptions.
“I haven’t had time to sit back and reflect on that,” Arrington said Tuesday, “but after watching the film, I’ve seen a lot of plays I personally left out on the field. I tell myself, ‘shoot, I could have six or seven right now.”‘
His latest theft came on the first series of Sunday’s 20-16 win over the Dallas Cowboys when he picked off Tony Romo’s pass intended for Dez Bryant. Nine plays later, the Patriots had a 3-0 lead.
Arrington’s ascent began when he finally joined a team that kept him. The Patriots added him to their practice squad on Sept. 21, 2009, seven days after he was waived by the Buccaneers.
He brought his intensity and athleticism with him.
“He’s one of the best athletes that I’ve been around, period,” Patriots special teams captain Matthew Slater said. “And his work ethic. I remember guys giving Kyle a hard time when he first got here for going too hard at times and (they said) ‘ease up,’ but he never listened. He kept working hard.
“I remember encouraging him, ‘Hey, man, just keep doing what you’re doing. You’re going to get a chance.’ There’s no denying his physical ability, and now he’s gotten that chance and he’s taken full advantage of it.”
Arrington, originally signed by the Eagles as a rookie free agent in April 2008, first made his mark on special teams after the Patriots signed him to the active roster after their seventh game in 2009. And after cornerback Leigh Bodden suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in training camp last season, Arrington started 14 of the 16 regular-season games.
But he finished with just one interception.
He returned home to Maryland with instructions from coach Bill Belichick to develop his ball handling skills. He spent time there training with Washington running back Tim Hightower and Atlanta defensive end Lawrence Sidbury.
Stats: 2011 Patriots Stats
“I did a lot of self-scouting after (last) season ended. I felt there were a lot of plays for me to be made, which I didn’t,” said Arrington, soft spoken off the field but aggressive on it. “We’re all great athletes in the NFL and what separates people, one, is definitely film study and, two, is confidence I think. So I’m just trying to work on both of them.”
When he came back to Foxborough for training camp, the improvement in his ability to catch the ball was obvious.
“Right from the beginning, it was evident that he had worked hard on that,” Belichick said.
In high school, where he also played basketball and ran track, Arrington’s ball-catching skills were one of his strengths.
“When I first started playing the game in high school (and) college I was more of a finesse player and had great ball skills and wasn’t much of a tackler, wasn’t much of a physical player,” he said, “but it was opposite when I first entered the league. (I was) more aggressive, could have worked on better ball skills.”
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Two major reasons for this year’s accomplishments, Arrington said, are his greater confidence and his defensive teammates’ good plays — pressuring the quarterback, hitting a receiver, tipping the ball.
“It definitely takes a team effort,” he said. “I don’t read a lot into individual stats.”
His first interception came on the last play of the opener, a 38-24 win over Miami. He grabbed two more two weeks later in the Patriots only loss, 34-31 at Buffalo. They came on the Bills first two series with the initial grab setting up a touchdown drive.
In college, Arrington had just two interceptions in four seasons.
“I’m kind of baffled at how a guy like that ends up going to Hofstra with all the physical talents that he has,” Slater said. “He’s one of the most physically gifted guys that I’ve ever been around.”
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But while Arrington is at the top of the NFL’s interception list, the Patriots are at the bottom in passing and overall defense. No team has allowed more yards in those categories.
“We’re competitors,” he said, “so that’s definitely not what we want to be a part of, worst or last pass defense in the league, so we’re working extremely hard to get better.”
There has been considerable improvement in the past two games.
Not nearly as much, though, as Arrington has made — from his days at a small school until his emergence as the NFL’s leading interceptor.
“I really haven’t had time to sit back and reflect yet,” he said, “but I’ve never really considered myself a longshot or anything like that. I’m a football player. It’s what I wanted to do since day one and it’s what I want to continue to do.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)