Patten 'coming back home'

FOXBOROUGH -- Veteran receiver David Patten is a long shot to make big-time contributions during the New England Patriots' 2010 season. After all, he was out of football last season and is 36 years old, hoping to find football's fountain of youth for one more year.

Yet here he was, on the third day of the Patriots' offseason program, making his way down the tunnel, up the steps and onto the Gillette Stadium playing field on a sun-splashed Wednesday afternoon.

Memories, anyone?

Patten has plenty of them from his previous stint with the Patriots, a magical stretch from 2001 to 2004 that he referred to as a time in his career when it was "all the glory."

Three Super Bowl rings ... The touchdown catch in the Super Bowl upset over the Rams ... Getting knocked out in Buffalo, losing the ball, but being ruled out of bounds ... The "Triple Play" game against the Colts when he threw for a touchdown, rushed for a touchdown and caught a touchdown.

More than anything, though, what Patten remembers most was a special feeling within the locker room.

"It was just the camaraderie, the family," Patten reminisced. "Many times, especially over the past year when I didn't have the opportunity to play and was going around speaking to various groups of kids and companies, one thing I reflected on and remember vividly was the family atmosphere.

"We would get out of practice at 3:30, 4 o'clock. You would have an afternoon meeting for about 30 minutes to an hour, but we would spend two to three hours just hanging out in the locker room. I'm absolutely convinced that's what gave us the edge on Sundays.

"They didn't say we were the best; we didn't have the most talent. But the one thing you couldn't argue with was the fact that we had one of the best teams. I think that was because we genuinely enjoyed being around each other. That's what I remember most."

Listening to Patten walk down Memory Lane was a treat, not to mention a reminder of how special what the Patriots accomplished in those years was.

His hope is to create another chapter of unforgettable memories, even though it probably wouldn't be a good sign for the Patriots if they wind up relying heavily on him.

"It seems like it was just yesterday, but it was six years ago. Time flies," said Patten, who made the initial move to contact the Patriots this offseason, and then was signed to a one-year contract after an impressive workout. "But I'm excited to be back, and hopefully we can just recapture that success."

Patten, once again donning his familiar jersey No. 86, went back and forth with a reporter Wednesday while reflecting on some of his top on-field Patriots memories. When the reporter mentioned that bizarre play in Buffalo in which he was knocked out, he smiled wide.

"Bring back some good memories," he said, laughing.

Touchdown receptions and clutch Super Bowl plays were then brought up, which was right in Patten's wheelhouse.

"Without a doubt, the [touchdown] catch from the first Super Bowl. That sticks out, but everyone expects that," Patten said, before detailing a different catch -- a 38-yard touchdown reception against the Kansas City Chiefs early in the 2002 season.

On that play, the ball was thrown behind him on a 14-yard dig route, but Patten reached his hand out and the ball stuck. He reversed field, stiff-armed the safety, then dove into the end zone once he reached the 5-yard line because he was shocked at what was unfolding.

The enjoyable back-and-forth with Patten reinforced that while things often seem to be moving ahead so quickly these days, it's still nice to look back and reminisce about the glory years of the Patriots.

If Patten has his way, he'll be turning back the clock on the field this fall. When he walked through Gillette Stadium for the first time since his return, it seemed to him as if nothing had changed.

"It's like coming back home," he said. "It kind of feels like I never left."

Mike Reiss covers the Patriots for ESPN Boston. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.