For Light, The Time Was Right

Matt Light & Tom Brady

Matt Light officially retired despite the protests of his friend and team leader Tom Brady. Light said it was time to move on with the next phase of his life and he was "ready."

 Patriots Pro Bowl left tackle Matt Light formally announced his retirement May 7 in a ceremony inside The Hall at Patriot Place next door to Gillette Stadium. New England had actually placed the 11-year veteran and former 2001 second-round pick on the reserve/retired list the week leading up the draft.

   The announcement included fond tales of Light's impressive career told by New England owner Robert Kraft and head coach Bill Belichick. The bulk of New England's current offensive line, coaching staff and even former teammates like Russ Hochstein and Sammy Morris were also in attendance.

   "He's been a tremendous player for us, a tremendous resource for our team," Belichick said to a packed house of media and fans. "He's given great leadership as well as great performance. A lot of levity that we probably need around here. Most of which I'll miss, but not all of it. Matt, congratulations on a tremendous career. You and your family have meant a lot to this team and the community up here. Nobody was more consistent, more dependable, to count on, to coach than this guy has been the last 11 years."

   Light retires as a three-time Pro Bowler and the only primary left tackle that Tom Brady has ever known as a starting quarterback in the NFL. He was a first-team All-Pro on New England's record-setting offense in 2007. He's also one of just five players in NFL history  to have started in five Super Bowls, joining Brady in that group along with winning three Super Bowl rings in his time in New England.

   Light walks away after arguably his best season in 2011, when he dealt with elite pass rushers on seemingly a weekly basis and met the challenge on almost every snap for a Patriots passing offense that ranked No. 2 in the NFL.

   So why would he be leaving the game at the relatively young age of 33, healthy and seemingly in the prime of his career?

   "You know, I've got a daughter that's 10 (years old), I've got two boys who are knuckleheads and they need a lot of guidance a lot more time. I think that one of things that was ever apparent over the last couple seasons, it takes a lot longer to recover the older you get. Really during that six, seven, eight months of that football season, it really becomes very difficult to give much outside of a 'hi' or 'goodnight' or 'good morning.' That's always been really important," Light said.

   "Also health reasons, just wanting to leave this game upright and feeling good. To be quite honest with you, I really had this sense of being grateful for the experience. I remember 2011, this past season there was a different mindset, maybe that's why I enjoyed some success out there. I really just felt like I am blessed to be a part of this. It made this season so memorable, so fun, for me, when I finally closed this chapter, I am truly grateful. Especially this young talent, I saw how talented they were and how they were in good hands. With (offensive line coach) Dante (Scarnecchia) in the room, there's going to be high expectations.

   "When you know it's your time, you just know."

   Light also used his retirment to talk candidly about his battle over the years with Crohn's disease, something he did his best to keep under wraps throughout his career. He looked back on a time in the summer of 2004 when he was quite ill and actually had to have 13 inches of his intestine removed.

   "It was one of the darkest periods of my life," Light told ESPNBoston.com

   Not only did he make it on the field in 2004 after the illness, Light won his third Super Bowl with the team later that season. This past week he put the caps on an impressive career in New England as one of the better offensive linemen the team has ever fielded.

   He walks away from the game on his terms, just the way he wanted to. But he expects to remain in New England, raising his family in a region that he couldn't even locate on a map when he was drafted out of Purdue in the second round back in 2001.

   Longtime New England offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia said the greatest praise that can be given is that Light will be greatly missed, maybe most by his quarterback.

   "An exceptional player and an exceptional person and teammate," Brady said in a special video commemorating Light's career. "He played on our left side for 11 great seasons, in the biggest games on the biggest stages. He's a really unique player and a unique person. He really allowed offensively to be very versatile in the things we did because of his versatility. Every week the left tackle goes up against the best the other team has to offer, whether it's Jason Taylor or Dwight Freeney or Aaron Schobel -- and these are guys Matt faced week in and week out -- we never gave Matt help over there, he was on his own. He was a fun player to be around, he was tough, he was physical, he was a great example. He certainly brought some levity to the room. He has a great sense of humor. He did a lot of great things in the community and he's still doing those things. He's one of my favorite teammates I've ever had. I'm certainly going to miss him and I'm still going to try to talk him out of retirement because I still want him back here for a few more years."

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