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Thursday, March 11, 2010
Neal was serious about retirement

By Mike Reiss

Patriots offensive lineman Stephen Neal said after the team's playoff loss to the Ravens that he was considering retirement. It wasn't until about two to three weeks ago that he changed his mind.

What led to the change?

"That's a good question," he said today on a conference call. "Football is a brutal sport and there are a lot of people banging around out there. Your body heals after a little bit of time and I feel a lot better than I did that day. It's tough to go out on a game like that. You work so hard all year, and only one team really gets to walk off the field that season satisfied. I would like to definitely come back and give it another run, work with my teammates, and have some fun and not end my career like that."

Neal said returning to the Patriots was his goal but he wasn't sure the team was interested. He said he envisions finishing his career with the team, as he doesn't see himself playing beyond the two seasons for which he's signed.

"In today's game, it's hard for people to sign with one team and be with them pretty much their entire career. I think that's something special and I'd like to do that," he said. "I think with this deal, I don't think I can play too much longer after two years."

The last time Neal was a free agent, he visited with other clubs and said he was interested in playing near San Diego, closer to his family. He didn't consider that possibility this time around.

Neal is currently at home in California and he's been spending time trying to save the wrestling program at his alma mater, Cal State Bakersfield.

"If it wasn't for the Cal State wrestling program, there is no way I'd be able to play in the NFL," he said. "I want to make sure it's there for other people's opportunities down the road. If some day my kid wants to go there and wrestle, I'd like for that program to still be alive."