FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Tom Brady tried to persuade Matt Light to return for another season by offering him a year’s supply of his favorite candy bar. Offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia reminded Light that he’s still in the prime of his career.
But Light, one of a handful of NFL players to have started in five Super Bowls, said on Monday he is retiring from the league at the age of 33 to have a chance “to leave this game upright and feeling good.”
“When it’s your time, you just know,” the New England Patriots offensive lineman said Monday in a retirement ceremony at the team’s Hall of Fame.
A three-time Pro Bowl selection and three-time Super Bowl champ, Light retired after 11 seasons. Coach Bill Belichick, owner Bob Kraft and much of the Patriots’ offensive line attended to support Light, along with his family, friends and fans.
“He’s one of my favorite teammates I’ve ever had,” Brady said in a video prepared for the occasion. “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.”
In fact, Light said, Brady offered a year’s supply of Kit Kat candy bars to entice Light to stay, to no avail.
“One of the things that was very apparent over the last couple of seasons is that it takes a lot longer to recover the older you get,” Light said. “It really became very difficult to give much outside of a ‘hi,’ ‘goodbye’ or ‘good morning’ to my family, and that’s always been really important to me.”
Belichick, wearing a short-sleeved, button-down shirt and jeans and a frequent smile, recounted some of the off-field antics that made Light so popular among his teammates and the first one they all suspected whenever there was a prank.
“That’s the way it was with Matt,” Belichick said. “He had a great sense when to lighten up and when to tighten up.”
The coach talked about trading up to take Light in the second round of the 2001 draft, jumping ahead of the New York Jets, and then mis-casting him at right tackle. After an unproductive training camp, Light was moved to the left side, where he had played at Purdue and where he’s remained ever since.
“He played on out left side for 11 great seasons, in the biggest games on the biggest stages,” Brady said. “He was a fun player to be around, he was tough, he was physical, he was a great example.”
Belichick called the decision to move Light back to his natural position perhaps the best “un-coaching” move he’s ever made.
Brady is now the only Patriot on the roster from the 2002 Super Bowl championship team. (Kevin Faulk is unsigned and likely to retire). Kraft noted that Light and Brady are two of the five players in NFL history to have started in five Super Bowls; the others are Cornelius Bennett, John Elway and Charles Haley.
Kraft said the team would plan a special day to honor Light during the season.
“It’s hard to imagine going to practice or playing in a game and not having Matt sit behind me on the bus,” said offensive lineman Logan Mankins, who played next to Light and said he usually sat next to him on the team plane. “Matt had a model career that a lot of guys would love to have. His technique was flawless.”
Belichick said he watched Light mature from a player who had 19 mental errors in his first season to only two last year in one of the most demanding positions on the field: protecting the quarterback’s blind side.
Scarnecchia said Light could still do the job.
“He’s walking away from this game really in the prime of his career. He could play longer,” Scarnecchia said. “He’s walking away after having a great, great season last season and a lot of guys would never do that. … I think the greatest thing you could ever say to someone that leaves you is that you’ll be missed.
“He will be missed in a lot of ways, he’ll be missed certainly as a football player, one of our leaders on our football team and a guy that every day came in with his lunch pail, went to work and did all the things that he needed to do to be successful and for our team to be successful.”