Longtime Patriots radio color analyst Gino Cappelletti officially has retired after 32 years of calling games, he told ESPNBoston.com, and his longtime play-by-play partner, Gil Santos, will be embarking on his final year in the booth after revealing a life-threatening experience following last season, according to another report.
Cappelletti, 78, and Santos, 72, have called Patriots games on the radio for 28 years, including the past 21 in a row. The news was first reported by the Boston Globe.
"Through five decades, my romance with football and my relationship with the Patriots organization have provided me with a lifetime of wonderful memories," Cappelletti said in a statement released to the Globe.
Before he went to radio, Cappelletti played 11 seasons for the Patriots as a receiver, kicker and defensive back. His career began in 1960, the team's inaugural season in the AFL, and he was named to five All-Star teams and was the league's all-time leading scorer.
"I have had the privilege of sharing the broadcast of six Super Bowls, and amazingly, five in the past decade," Cappelletti said. "The memory of the first Super Bowl victory will always be fresh in my mind. For me, it serves as a special reminder of how far this franchise has come, the challenges that were met, and the adversity we faced in those early years. But as they say in the huddle after a long, successful day's work, it's time to take a knee and celebrate the win.''
In reflecting Friday on Cappelletti's career, Patriots owner Robert Kraft pointed out that in the 52-year history of the team, Cappelletti had served as either a player, coach or color analyst for 45 of those seasons.
"There will never be another Gino Cappelletti," Kraft said in a statement released by the team. "I remember watching him play as an original Boston Patriot in 1960. He quickly became one of the biggest stars of the fledgling American Football League. He retired as the league's all-time leading scorer and deserves special recognition, not just for being one of the pioneers of the AFL, but for creating the foundation on which our franchise was built. He has been a great ambassador for the Patriots over a career that spanned six decades. His legend has grown since he retired as a player, as generations of Patriots fans have grown up listening to him provide insight and analysis of many of the most memorable games in franchise history. While he may be stepping down as a broadcaster, he will always be a Patriots ambassador and will remain one of the most iconic figures in franchise history."
Patriots coach Bill Belichick said it will be "hard imagining not working with him on a regular basis" anymore.
"Around the team, he wasn't just a broadcaster but was -- and remains -- truly part of the team, respected by players and coaches for representing everything good about sports," Belichick said in a statement released by the team. "Gino is a class act, one of the true gentlemen of the AFL and NFL and I am proud to have been associated with him every week of my career as Patriots head coach."
Former Patriots quarterback Scott Zolak is expected to take Cappelletti's place in the booth, according to the Globe, though that move hasn't been made official. Zolak had joined Patriots radio broadcasts in a sideline role last season.
Santos, meanwhile, told the Worcester Telegram & Gazette that this will be his 36th and final season as the Patriots' radio play-by-play man.
He revealed to the newspaper that just a month ago, he wasn't sure whether he would return this season because he was still recovering from a harrowing ordeal at the end of last season.
After the AFC Championship Game, Santos told the Telegram, he shook uncontrollably for an hour due to illness, but felt better after taking a hot shower. He said he did not follow his wife's suggestion to go to the emergency room.
Santos still had a cold after the Super Bowl and again ignored his wife's plea to go to a doctor, he told the newspaper.
Then, on a trip to a diner Feb. 24, after Santos staggered out of the men's room, an ambulance was called.
Santos told the Telegram he had double pneumonia on one lung, single pneumonia in the other, blood poisoning and a pulmonary obstruction that had him on a ventilator in intensive care for three weeks and hospitalized for another month. He spent another six weeks at a rehab center, where he had to learn to use his arms and legs again.
Santos said he was read his last rites three times during the ordeal.
"They thought I was going to check out," Santos told the Telegram. "Obviously, I didn't. I don't remember any of it."
Santos left the rehab center with the help of a walker May 19. He is expected to be in the booth in time for the Patriots' first preseason game Aug. 9.