Light: 'Awesome opportunity' to be honored

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Light: 'Awesome opportunity' to be honored

FOXBORO -- It's expected to be a rainy, messy show at Gillette Stadium when the Patriots and Texans square off for their game Monday night. Perfect conditions to recognize a man who spent his career in football's trenches.

Longtime Patriots left tackle Matt Light, who retired before the start of the season, will be honored at halftime by the team.

"It's fitting isn't it?" Light said with a smile. "You look like your dog after a while. You go through things in your life, they seem to fit better than others . . . It's rainy and nasty and mucky, it's a good day to be honored if you're an offensive lineman."

It is just the fifth time in team history that a former player will be honored at halftime. Kevin Faulk was honored in Week 4 at halftime of New England's game against the Bills earlier this season. Troy Brown was honored in Week 2 against the Cardinals.

Light met with reporters before the game to discuss some of his memories as a player, and how he's adjusting to his very different post-football life.

"Everybody asks me, what do you miss the most," Light said. "The thing that I miss the most is competing for something on the level that most people don't. You do things -- it's almost military precision with which we go about each day, our focus and everything else. And it's really difficult to find that in the real world."

As a player, Light had a reputation of always being able to find the humor in things. He was notorious for pulling pranks on teammates and coaches, things he thought helped bring his Patriots teammates together.

"Most of 'em we cannot talk about," Light said. "Most of them, I can't even tell my own family which is horrible. But we had a lot of fun . . . Shocked Bill Belichick with a couple remotes. That was always fun. That was great. Offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, poor Dante, he had to suffer quite a few little issues in our offensive line room.

"I think the best thing you could say about it is, if you do it the right way, you're never getting one person in a negative manner. But you do things that kind of bring everybody together. For me when you're laughing, at a time when you don't laugh a whole lot when you're working, those are the moments that stick in your mind. Man we had a lot of those over the years, it was a lot of fun. Great group of guys, man."

Those fun moments are a part of his football career that Light says he now misses. Things he doesn't miss? Early morning positional meetings, and facing defensive linemen like current Texans star JJ Watt.

"There's a lot of people I'm glad I don't face anymore," Light said. "My life is a lot more relaxed. I miss a lot of things about the game of football. Tonight's an awesome opportunity to come back and watch these guys do what they do. Of course it's an exciting season, as it always is. For me it's an opportunity to share with my family and friends what's been an awesome journey."

Patriots pregame rituals: Step-by-step with the players on game day

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Patriots pregame rituals: Step-by-step with the players on game day

What goes through Dont'a Hightower’s mind in the minutes before he takes the field and lowers himself into a cauldron of collisions, pain and exultation?

Not a thing.

“I rest. I literally rest,” said the Patriots Pro Bowl inside linebacker. “I don’t do anything else. I sit at my locker, I don’t listen to music. I don’t do anything out of the ordinary. I don’t look at film, I don’t look at notes. I’m just relaxed. Calm before the storm. I’ve done enough preparing, I’ve done enough notes, I’ve done enough of that stuff during the week. If I don’t know it by now, I don’t know it. It’s not gonna help me last minute. It’s only gonna make me play slower.”

By the time an NFL team hits the field – in the Patriots case, runs out of a giant, inflatable helmet while Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train” blares – they are primped, polished, taped and glistening.

But what is their day like leading up to that? I asked a few Patriots to take me through their game-day prep from wakeup to anthem to give me insight into what we don’t see.  

You can hear Hightower, Nate Solder, Alan Branch, Devin McCourty and Rob Ninkovich detail the steps they take to get game-ready. French toast is involved. So are naps. And sock preparation.

It all builds to that moment of theater that Ninkovich says is what players truly miss when they leave the game – that feeling of euphoria.

“When we finally get to run out, that’s the most exciting time in the world,” says Solder. “The crowd wasn’t there earlier when we went out there and all of a sudden, the crowd is there. Very exciting, very fun, especially with the guys you work so hard with.”

Says McCourty, “I always think when I run out of the tunnel to look up and say, ‘Thank you’ just to be able to play.”

Listen to them tell their stories here:

Just Belichick being Belichick at Friday presser

Just Belichick being Belichick at Friday presser

On Wednesday, the Patriots media room was festooned with AFC Championship Game adornments. A big red backdrop behind the podium, Patriots and Steelers helmets arranged on a table facing each other with the Lamar Hunt AFC Champion Trophy in the middle. 

Bill Belichick, who's not big on festoons, noted the helmets during his press conference and deadpanned, "So exciting...". That clip got some run. 

On Friday, when asked to recall his first Conference Championship as a coach, he mentioned the 2001 AFC Championship Game in Pittsburgh and the fact that Belichick, Lawyer Milloy and Tom Brady were all required to fly to Pittsburgh on the Friday before the game to do media duties. 

"That was awesome," Belichick snarked. Then, looking to the area where the display was on Wednesday, Belichick smiled and said, "Where's all the stuff from Wednesday? Did it get thrown out?"

He is the turd in the NFL's punch bowl and it's endlessly amusing.