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Matt Light’s teammates knew the veteran tackle was set to call it a career this past season

05.07.12 at 1:21 pm ET
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FOXBORO — Matt Light‘€™s teammates knew he was getting close to the end of his career after a series of late-night, postgame talks this past season, according to teammate and fellow offensive lineman Logan Mankins.

‘€œWe’€™re pretty close, so I’€™ve know for a while,’€ said Mankins, who lined up at left guard next to Light for the better part of the last seven seasons. ‘€œI don’€™t want to get into dates and everything. But most of us knew it was coming.

‘€œWe had some late nights after games here celebrating and we had heart-to-heart talks about stuff like that. I think he was sharing it and bouncing it off people. We always told him that whatever he felt was right, we’€™d support him.’€

That was much was clear on Monday morning, as several of Light’€™s teammates were in attendance at his retirement ceremony at the Hall at Patriot Place. Just about every offensive lineman that was on the roster last season — save for veteran guard Brian Waters — was in attendance. In addition, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, as well as former teammates Sammy Morris and Russ Hochstein were present. (Quarterback Tom Brady and offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia spoke as part of a video tribute to Light.)

And even though they knew this day was coming, it was a bittersweet moment to see their teammate say goodbye to the game.

‘€œThe young guys, they came out here — they just wanted to be there for him and say goodbye in a sense, even the guys he’€™s only know for one year,’€ said center Dan Koppen. ‘€œHe’€™s had a huge impact on their careers and how to conduct themselves as a professional. A guy who just comes in every day and just works hard. He’€™s just going to be missed. It’€™s sad, sad in a way. But we’€™re going to have to move on.’€

‘€œIt’€™s a little weird,’€ Mankins said. ‘€œI’€™ve been with Matt for seven years. We’€™ve played next to each other. It’€™s been great. He’€™s been a great teammate, a great friend. It’€™s a little surreal still. You don’€™t believe he’€™s leaving yet.

‘€œIt’€™s hard to imagine going to practice or playing in a game and not having Matt sit behind me on the bus. Or we sat next to each other on the plane. He was a locker mate pretty close to me. It’€™s going to be a little different this season. It will be my first season without Matt.’€

‘€œI obviously enjoyed playing alongside Matt for four years,’€ Morris said. ‘€œAt the same time, I kind of realized that I learned about him away from the field has had more of an impact than Matt wearing No. 72. He’€™s a great guy. It didn’€™t take much for me to come out here today.’€

A former All-Pro, Light developed a reputation as a world-class prankster. Light recalled an incident where he snuck an electric mouse into Bill Belichick‘€™s office that shocked the head coach not once, but twice.

‘€œThe shocking thing in Bill’€™s office, that was probably one of them,’€ Koppen recalled with a smile. ‘€œHe did … Bill wasn’€™t the only guy he got. He got [Scarnecchia] on that as well. We’€™ve had a lot of good ones. He’€™s done so many. You really can’€™t remember them all. He really does have most of them on video. That’€™s a good thing.’€

Mankins somehow managed to avoid getting pranked, saying he was ‘€œmore of an assistant than a co-prankster.’€

‘€œMatt, he was good at never going too far,’€ Mankins said. ‘€œThere were a lot of funny ones that were always enjoyed … not always by the person who was getting it, but the rest of the team. We enjoyed it very much.

‘€œIt keeps everything light around there. I’€™m 30 now, but I still act like I’€™m 18 in the locker room and around the guys. We never grow up. We’€™re always doing things we probably shouldn’€™t be doing at our age. We enjoy the heck out of it.’€

In the end, it won’€™t be his trickery his teammates remember, but his technique.

‘€œThe way he moved, he was a great technician,’€ Mankins said. ‘€œHis technique was always pretty flawless, and he was always going against one of the best D-linemen on that team. The things he did for 11 years were pretty special. I think anyone would love to have the career he had, play 11 years, five Super Bowls, won three, Pro Bowls. He did about everything you could do, and it’€™s pretty special to see him leaving on his own terms when he wants to. The career he had, I don’€™t know if I can get to five.

‘€œI don’€™t know if I can play that many more years, but he’€™s had the model career, and a lot of guys would love to have one like that.’€

Here’€™s more from Light’€™s teammates on Monday morning:

Koppen on the impact Light had on him as a rookie? ‘€œI think we had a little bit of a different year, rookie-wise. I think he got yelled at a little bit more than I did. I think [Mike Compton] got most of the yelling that was supposed to go to him. I think Scar just stopped talking to him, so he told Mike to yell at him through Scar. But he just comes in and he’€™ll tell you how it goes. As a rookie, you just have to put your head down and go and be where you’€™re supposed to be and do what you’€™re supposed to do, and don’€™t say anything. He’€™s had a huge influence, especially early on in my career, and when you get out on the field in August and September and December when you don’€™t want to be out there, you take a look at the guys you played with for nine years, and they sort of push you. He was one of those guys.’€

Mankins on the toughest thing to replace — Light’€™s talent or leadership? ‘€œBoth. To be a leader like Matt, you had to be around awhile. Young guys can’€™t come in and step right into that role. It’€™s pretty tough. Guys usually follow guys who have been through it, and lead by example, and everyone could see that Matt … he’€™s been through it. The way he carried himself and the way he worked out and trained. It’€™s easy to look at someone like Matt and follow him.’€

Mankins on Light’€™s presumed replacement, Nate Solder: ‘€œNate, he did a great job for us last year. We were very impressed with Nate. I think he’€™s only going to get better this year. He better get better, because that’€™s what we want him to do and expect of him. He’€™s putting in the work right now to get on that road to getting better and being a very good tackle.’€

Mankins on the love/hate relationship Light enjoyed with Dante Scarnecchia: ‘€œThat was kind of the relationship a lot of guys had with coaches. They spend 11 seasons together and when you’€™re with someone every day, you’€™re not always going to agree on the way things are going, and you always have you’€™re idea on how things should go. But they would disagree on things and be friends again the next day. That’€™s how we would go about things. I know Dante has a world of respect for Matt. He’€™s seen the way Matt’€™s worked and played. He’€™s played hurt. He’€™s played healthy. He’€™s done it all. And Dante knows every little detail of what Matt’€™s been through. That’€™s why he respects him so much.’€

Read More: Dan Koppen, Logan Mankins, Matt Light, russ hochstein
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