- Mike Rodak, ESPN Staff Writer
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Podium comments from Patriots offensive tackle Matt Light's retirement ceremony on Monday:
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick:
"It's really with a lot of mixed emotions that I stand up here today to talk about Matt. Since Matt is going after I am, I know I'm going to get killed, so might as well take a couple swings while I can, since it will be a while before I get a chance to have rebuttal. All the great accolades that Tom [Brady] and Dante [Scarnecchia] and Mr. Kraft mentioned were certainly in my mind as well. Matt has been the definition of a dependable, durable, consistent player who has held one of the toughest positions in the game for a long time and made it a strong point on our team. It's been a pleasure to coach Matt for these 11 years.
As Dante said, it was a love-hate relationship; we had our ups and downs. We have challenging moments. Certainly every year, before the start of the season, right around training camp, or sometime later in training camp, Matt would always be in my office. I knew what the conversation was about. At the end I finally got the picture and started it off with Matt, by asking 'When's the turkey hunt this year?' We'd try to figure out a date to set. We'd work into the schedule with our team so all the players could participate.
Our relationship goes back a long way. In the draft in 2001, we actually traded up ahead of the Jets, because we felt that they would be taking an offensive tackle and we wanted to make sure that we got Matt. We felt that he would be a real good player for our team. We drafted Matt, and they took Kareem McKenzie a couple picks later.
So we kind of got off to a rocky start that rookie year, with my brilliance and foresight, I decided Matt, really even though he played left tackle at Purdue extremely well, that he would be better suited to play right tackle for us. We put him over there at right tackle. We go out there in training camp and he gets in a pile in a drill and comes out. I walked over to him and asked, 'What is wrong with you?' He says 'coach, somebody fell on my ankle. I got a high ankle sprain.' That's when it started. [I said], 'Matt, how do you know you have a sprain? You know it hurts, don't give me an instant diagnosis. Just go out there and run the plays, don't start playing doctor.' He was out for five weeks, and he got back just before the regular season. We went to Cincinnati for the opener, close to where Matt lives. He left to see his parents, got caught in traffic, some garbage [like that], and he was late for the meeting. Matt didn't start that first game. So I thought we were over the hump on that one. Later that year we went out to Denver. Our plane landed a couple hours before team meeting, and Matt and a couple of his other teammates went out there shopping for cowboy boots, belt buckles, something like that, and they showed up late. So we have to go through another one.
But then actually going back to the end of training camp, I finally said -- Dante and I still remember the conversation -- we tried him at right tackle, he didn't look very good, then he got hurt. So we said look, let's just forget it. Let's put him over at left tackle and see what we can do. We have our doubts as to whether he can really play left tackle in the NFL, let's just put him over there and see how it goes. Went pretty good. [He made] 19 mental errors that rookie year. Matt only had two this past season.
He's been a stalwart for us on the field and off the field as several have alluded to. One thing about Matt was, because he was the ultimate prankster, even when it wasn't him playing the prank, he was involved because everybody thought it was him. He had a great knack for putting dead animals in people's lockers or in their car. Whatever it was, the finger always pointed to Matt first because that was his personality. He was always the prime suspect even when it wasn't him. One of the best ones that he had I was involved in with, it was actually a lot of fun. We were, two years ago, going through the usual grinding part of the season in November, December, and we had a big game with the Jets coming up. There were usually two or three times during the season when I would go to the team after a win, Sunday in the locker room, and say I'm going to give you Monday and Tuesday off, but I want you to watch film, know them inside and out. There are questions on Wednesday, they're not easy. You really have better done your homework or it will be a long week. Matt comes in on Tuesday and he's in watching film. He comes into my office and says 'As a prank between me and you, what do you think about throwing a question out there tomorrow that nobody will know the answer, but I'll nail it, and that will just send a great message to team about studying and being prepared and really being ready for this game against the Jets.' I'm like, 'come on,' but he talked me into it, so we went with it. I go into the meeting the next day, and said 'okay, let's talk about the Jets sub defense. What have we seen them run?' Brady's [says], '2-4 nickel, 3-3 nickel.' [I say], 'have we ween them in dime?' Hoyer says, 'yeah we saw them in 3-2 dime, but not that much.' I say 'have we seen them in another dime package? No other dime package?' Light sticks up his hand. 'Coach, I thought I saw them in that 1-5 dime one time, I think,' [he says]. 'Damnit, Light, you did. They've been it one time all year. I don't imagine you remember the game, since you went through the whole entire film,' [I say]. 'I want to say it was the Houston game, the opener right before the half,' [Light said]. 'Alright Light, you have all the answers, you know everything,' [I said]. I break the meeting up, the offensive linemen walk out of the room, they're like 'Jesus Light, you're killing us, you're really putting us to shame here.' Honest to God, to this day, I don't think any of those guys ever knew. But that's the way it was with Matt. He had a great sense when to lighten up and when to tighten up.
To not fool around with guard and right tackle, that was probably one of the best un-coaching, undoing a bad decision that I've done. He's been a tremendous player for us, a tremendous resource for our team. 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. Thank God we were able to move him back to left tackle. Thank you for putting up with me."