December 11, 2012

NFL: Patriots pay tribute to Light

By Mike Lowe mlowe@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- It rained heavily in the hours before Monday night's game between the New England Patriots and Houston Texans at Gillette Stadium. And that was just fine with Matt Light.

Light, the retired left tackle of the Patriots, was honored at the half of the Patriots game with the Houston Texans for his contributions to a team that won nine AFC East titles in his 11 years.

"It's fitting, isn't it?" said Light, one of the most loquacious players to ever play for Bill Belichick. "If it's rainy, or nasty, or mucky, it's a good day to be honored if you're an offensive lineman."

Light was drafted in the second round of the 2001 draft and proceeded to protect Tom Brady's blind side for his entire career. He played on three Super Bowl championship teams, played in three Pro Bowls and was selected All-Pro once, in 2007.

Speaking earlier in the week, quarterback Tom Brady said Light "probably never got as much credit as he deserved but we really knew the value that he had and he really added to our team."

And not just on the field. One of the funniest players on the team, he was a noted prankster, something that Brady and Belichick certainly appreciated.

"I loved coaching Matt Light and I'm glad we had him on our team," said Belichick. "He contributed a lot. He certainly knew how to needle and irritate people, sometimes in a good way. That was something that every team needs a little bit of, a little bit of a lighter side, and that was another one of his strengths."

Unfortunately, Light wouldn't talk about his pranks Monday night.

"You know, most of them we cannot talk about," he said, drawing a laugh. "And most of them I cannot even tell my own family, which is horrible. But we had a lot of fun. The biggest thing about all of that, I wish I could tell you more ... shocked Bill with a couple of remotes, that was always fun ... I think the best thing I can say about it is if you do it the right way and you're never getting one person in a negative manner, but you do things that bring everyone together, when you're all laughing at a time when we don't laugh a whole lot while we're working, those are the moments that stick in your mind. And we had a lot of those over the years."

Light was asked if he was glad he didn't have to play against Houston's J.J. Watt, the league's dominant defensive end. "There's a lot of people I'm glad I don't face any more," he said. "My life is a lot more relaxed."

Asked about second-year tackle Nate Solder, who replaced him on the left side, Light brought a laugh when he said, "The day he came in, I knew there was something about that guy. (And) he had a great mentor, who went above and beyond ... "

Seriously, he said that Solder is showing why the Patriots took 6-foot-8, 320-pound Solder with their first pick in the 2011 draft. "He's extremely athletic," he said. "I think this season, you're seeing a lot of what all the rest of the people in this organization knew. He comes to work every day. He's got a great attitude. He's extremely gifted. He's done a heck of a job."

* * *

Light is not the only ex-Pat coming back to Gillette.

For next Sunday's primetime game against San Francisco, Andre Tippett, Mike Hayes and Curtis Martin will serve as honorary team captains as the team celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Tippett, a linebacker, played his entire career with the Patriots. Haynes, a cornerback, played seven years for New England before being traded to Oakland. Martin, a running back, played three years with the Pats before signing with the Jets as a free agent.

The Hall of Fame bronze busts of those players, as well as those of linebacker Nick Buoniconti and guard John Hannah, will be on display at The Hall at Patriot Place.

* * *

Brandon Bolden was activated about three hours before the game. He had been suspended for four games by the NFL for taking a banned substance.

Despite missing those four games, Bolden is still second on the team in rushing. He has gained 234 yards, averaging 5.4 yards per carry, and scored two touchdowns.

Bolden was active for the game. Also returning to the lineup was left guard Logan Mankins and defensive end Chandler Jones. Mankins missed the last three games with an ankle injury. Jones missed the last two with an ankle injury.

 

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