|Great playoff memories from Matt Light, Kevin Faulk and Robert Kraft||01.20.13 at 5:58 pm ET|
FOXBORO — There’s a reason for everything the Patriots do and when they chose Matt Light and Kevin Faulk to be honorary captains for the AFC championship there was a definite message from Patriots owner Robert Kraft.
“I just pinched myself coming over here because I was thinking as a fan sitting in the stands we had the privilege of one home playoff game in ’78 which we lost to Houston, and I thought about that,” Kraft said on Friday. “We’re sitting here on the eve – our family has owned this team 19 years and this is our 17th home playoff game. We have a record of 14-2. I was thinking that last year we had our honorary captains, Drew Bledsoe, Ty Law, [Tedy] Bruschi and Troy Brown representing the ’96 and ’01 [teams], which were our first two championship games. Our two captains this year have been here for five.
“How do you do this? It’s about having great coaches, but most of all, it’s having great players and we’ve been blessed to have some wonderful players here. I feel a special connection and attachment to both Matt Light and Kevin Faulk, who have been here for five championship games but also our three Super Bowl titles. It’s my great pleasure to introduce Matt Light and Kevin Faulk.”
Light and Faulk will be out for the coin toss moments before the Patriots look for their sixth AFC championship in the last 12 seasons.
What do Faulk and Light think?
“First and foremost I would like to say thank you to Mr. Kraft and the Patriot organization just for the opportunity and honor to be able to be the honorary captain for the AFC Championship game,” Faulk said. “It’s kind of different for me and I am pretty sure it’s the same for Matt because we are used to being on the other side of these in the locker room preparing for the game. But it’s one of those [things] right now where times have changed and we are on the other side of the fence preparing for it in a different way. To have the opportunity to do this and to know the guys that have done it in the past like Ty, Bruschi and Drew, it is an honor.
“You never think about what is going to happen at the end whenever you are done playing football. I never thought I was going to play 13 years in the NFL and to accomplish the accomplishments that we accomplished as a football team and to see this organization still on that same path after so many years, it just speaks volumes for the organization, the players, the coaches and just everybody around here. Once again I would just like say thank you for the opportunity to Mr. Kraft and the Patriots organization.
“So listen, as a fan, I have never seen anything but a win at Gillette Stadium,” Light added. “Besides what some of you know, as a guy that isn’t the biggest sports fan off the field, there is nobody that is going to be in this stadium that is going to be more fired up for this one than this guy right here. Secondly, the guy that is getting this honor alongside of me here, Kevin Faulk – if there is one guy that I can walk out on a field one more time with, it would be the guy that did it on third down and every time he touched the field I felt better at my position. And even if I was getting smoked all game I felt better when he was out there because I knew that he would get rid of it quicker. It is just an awesome thing to be back here and be alongside Kevin Faulk.
“To have the Kraft family honor us in this way, to share in this special moment, at this time of the year, when everybody is amped up, it is truly a blessing. As Kevin said, the time that I have spent here, the time that Kevin has spent here, you look back on it and you say, as an organization, as a coaching staff and as the guys you play with, as all those things were combined to form what we experienced, it doesn’t get any better. We really appreciate it and we are really looking forward to it. I know we are. It is going to be good.”
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|Matt Light and Kevin Faulk honorary captains for Sunday’s AFC championship||01.17.13 at 3:11 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Two former Patriots key to the franchise’s Super Bowl success of the 2000s will serve as honorary captains for Sunday’s AFC championship game against Baltimore this Sunday.
Running back Kevin Faulk and left tackle Matt Light, who played their entire careers in New England and together helped the Patriots become the most successful team in the NFL for over a decade, were announced as the selections by the team on Thursday.
Both players announced their retirements in 2012 and each were honored with special halftime ceremonies during games this season to allow fans the opportunity to thank them for their Patriots careers. Faulk and Light played key roles in helping the Patriots win three Super Bowls in a four-year span. Each played in six AFC Championship games and celebrated five AFC Championships.
Faulk, who announced his retirement on Oct. 10, 2012 after spending his entire 13-year career as a member of the New England Patriots, was honored on November 11 during the Buffalo game. Faulk, who filled various roles for the Patriots during his years with the team, joined the club in 1999 as a second-round pick (46th overall) out of LSU. He is the Patriots all-time leader in all-purpose yards (12,349) and kickoff return yards (4,098) and is the Patriots’ all-time leading return specialist, totaling 5,041 combined return yards (4,098 kick return yards and 943 punt return yards). Faulk ranks fifth in Patriots history in rushing yards (3,607), fifth in receptions (431), 11th in pass receiving yards (3,701) and sixth in total punt return yards (943).
Faulk recorded the longest non-touchdown kickoff return in team history when he covered 95 yards on a return against the New York Jets (11/15/99).
Light was originally drafted by the Patriots in the second round of the 2001 NFL Draft. Light left the football field having played a major role in leading the Patriots to 11 consecutive seasons with a winning record, nine division championships, five conference titles and three Super Bowls. On February 5, 2012, he tied an NFL record when he started in his fifth Super Bowl, joining teammate Tom Brady along with Cornelius Bennett, John Elway and Charles Haley as the only other players to accomplish the feat.
In 2009, he was recognized as one of the best players in franchise history when he was named to the Patriots’ 50th Anniversary Team. Light earned three Pro Bowl honors following the 2006, 2007 and 2010 seasons. He played in 175 regular season games with 173 starts including all 20 postseason games and helped the Patriots’ offense finish in the top 10 seven times.
For more Patriots news, visit the team page at weei.com/patriots. WEEI-FM 93.7 will broadcast the AFC championship game between the Patriots and Ravens on Sunday at 6:30 p.m.
|Matt Light on D&C: ‘I’m going into full fan mode right now’||at 10:50 am ET|
Former Patriots offensive tackle Matt Light checked in with Dennis & Callahan on Thursday morning to preview Sunday’s AFC championship game.
Light retired just eight months ago after spending his entire 10-year career with the Patriots and is in an unfamiliar position, now rooting as a fan.
“I’m going into full fan mode right now, something I’ve never been,” Light said. “Literally, throughout the regular season I think had the same mentality that a lot of those guys do. It was like, ‘OK, we’re in the grind. It’s week in, week out. There’s no daylight at the end of the tunnel. You’ve got your head down, you’re going to work each and every day and nothing’s good. It doesn’t matter if you win every single game and you blow them out by 30, you’re terrible, you’ve got to keep working.
“At this point you realize as a player that you’ve done something, you have an opportunity to do something really special. When it’s as close as it is right now, this is the reason you play the game 100 percent.”
This year’s Patriots offense has been extremely impressive, notably in terms of the more balanced style between the passing and running game. The 2007 team was known for it’s deep threats like Randy Moss and the record-shattering numbers registered by Tom Brady, but this year’s offense might be better.
“I think it’s definitely possible to be better than ’07 even though that was obviously an incredible year,” Light said. “I don’t know how you rate one year to another especially when you’re looking at the best. … What I think this year represents is this system that’s really evolved. It’s changed, it had obviously different coordinators. Whether it was Charlie [Weis], or Josh [McDaniels], previous Josh or this Josh, Billy O’Brien, this offense has really come full circle.
“It’s the guys in the system, namely the guy that does a pretty good job of throwing the ball around and commanding everybody in the huddle and all that good stuff. But so many talented players that make up part of it. And then they keep you off balance. They do not just do a few things well, they execute at a very high level and they can change the tempo. And all those things you guys talk about throughout the entire year, they do them all and they do them all pretty darn well.”
|Matt Light soaks up retirement but still misses football December through January||12.10.12 at 7:18 pm ET|
FOXBORO — Tonight will be a night to honor one of the most decorated offensive linemen in Patriots history as Matt Light, who retired last spring, will become the fifth Patriots player since Gillette Stadium opened in 2002 to retire as a career Patriot and receive the honor of addressing the fans during a halftime ceremony. He joins former teammates Kevin Faulk (2012), Tedy Bruschi (2010), Troy Brown (2008) and Ted Johnson (2005) to receive the honor.
Light was his typical personable self in answering questions.
On not facing J.J. Watt tonight and the season for the Patriots:
“You know, there are a lot of people I’m glad I don’t face anymore. My life is a lot more relaxed. I miss a lot of things about the game of football, and 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 just an opportunity to share with my family and friends what has been just an awesome journey.”
On how fitting it is to be honored on a wet, rainy night:
“You know, it’s fitting, isn’t it? … If it’s rainy and nasty and mucky, it’s a good day to be honored if you’re an offensive lineman.”
On pulling pranks:
“Most of them, we can’t talk about. And most of them I can’t even tell my own family, which is horrible. We had a lot of fun. … Poor Dante, he had to suffer through quite a few little issues within our offensive line room. I think the best thing you can say about it is if you do it the right way, you never get one person in a negative manner. It lets you do things that kind of bring everybody together. And for me, when you’re all laughing at a time when, for the most part, we don’t laugh a whole lot when we’re working, those are the moments that stick in your mind.”
Looking at what this team could accomplish, do you miss that?
“I do. I think this is the most exciting time of the year. We always talked about December when we played, and there’s obviously a ton of pressure when you get to December. I think the good teams always find a way to focus on a whole other level. It’s cool when you see it all come together; you go through the ups and downs of a season, and you’re battling injuries and battling questions marks here and there. But when you get to December and you know that you lay it all on the line, and December is going to lead to January, and January is going to lead to an opportunity to reach the ultimate goal, that’s an awesome time.”
|Setting the scene LIVE from Gillette: Patriots-Texans||at 4:43 pm ET|
FOXBORO — After a week of seemingly endless hype, the Patriots and Texans will finally be ready for some football at Gillette Stadium.
When they do kick off at 8:30, it will be unseasonably mild, with the forecast calling for cloudy skies and 56 degrees. Not exactly the weather that was anticipated for Dec. 10 in Foxboro when the schedule was released back in April. The rain that fell earlier is not expected to be a factor since the field was covered by a tarp.
The game features top-ranked offense in the NFL in the Patriots (426.3 yards/game) and the fourth-ranked offense in the Texans (389.6). While most know Arian Foster leads a rushing attack (142.5 yards/game) that sets up a dangerous play-action offense, the Patriots have quietly moved themselves into the top 10 among rushing teams in the NFL. The Patriots rank eighth at 140.8 yards per game.
The Patriots offensive and defensive lines figure to each get a big boost with the return of a key starter.
After missing three games with a left ankle injury, Logan Mankins is expected to return to his customary starting spot at left guard while Chandler Jones – and his six sacks – are expected back at right defensive end for the Patriots.
The only Patriots player ruled out for tonight due to injury is Rob Gronkowski, missing his third straight game with a broken left forearm. Julian Edelman was placed on injured reserve and is done for the season after injuring his foot in the AFC East-clinching win over the Dolphins in South Florida on Dec. 2.
Jermaine Cunningham is missing his second straight game after being hit with an NFL-mandated four-game suspension for violation of the league’s PED policy.
In addition to Mankins and Jones, 11 Patriots are listed as questionable, including tight end Aaron Hernandez, Wes Welker, Dan Connolly, Sebastian Vollmer and Brandon Spikes. All are expected to play, barring any last-second setbacks in pre-game warmups.
Injuries could play a much bigger role for the Texans as they are without starting right tackle Derek Newton (knee), outside linebacker Brooks Reed and tight end Garrett Graham (concussion).
Tonight will be a night to honor one of the most decorated offensive linemen in Patriots history as Matt Light (inset), who retired last spring, will become the fifth Patriots player since Gillette Stadium opened in 2002 to retire as a career Patriot and receive the honor of addressing the fans during a halftime ceremony. He joins former teammates Kevin Faulk (2012), Tedy Bruschi (2010), Troy Brown (2008) and Ted Johnson (2005) to receive the honor.
|Nate Solder: ‘I need to improve on my technique’||08.21.12 at 2:50 am ET|
FOXBORO — Nate Solder isn’t about to doubt himself now.
After another rough outing at starting left tackle, he was asked about his transition to the spot once held by Matt Light.
“Well, I spent a lot time there with OTAs and now a lot of camp,” Solder said after New England’s 27-17 loss to the Eagles Monday night. “I feel good there and I want to continue to work there and get better at that spot. I need to improve on my technique sometimes.”
The fact of the matter is that the Patriots offensive line could look drastically different come opening day in Nashville against the Tennessee Titans. Logan Mankins could be starting at left guard. Brian Waters could be coming back from his extended summer break and Sebastian Vollmer could finally be healthy.
The only way Solder is going to feel confident, though, is to show he can handle the best competition in the game.
That was certainly not a problem Monday night as Trent Cole, Cullen Jenkins and Derek Landri came after the quarterback with intensity.
“We worked hard; we tried to take the most from it that we could,” Solder said. “They absolutely are great pass rushers, so it’s a great challenge for us and it’s a great way to keep learning and getting better.”
So, the big question is: Does Solder feel like he and the line are getting better?
“It’s a building process and this is the next step,” Solder said. “As long as we keep continuing to get better every day, that’s kind of my goal right now.”
Solder was on the field as Brian Hoyer was sacked twice and the running game could generate only 60 yards in 29 carries.
“They’re great pass rushers and that’s kind of their focus, definitely,” Solder said. “It’s definitely an exciting proposition to come against those good pass rushers like that, that are really trying to get pressure on the quarterback, and that’s their focus. Going into that game, that was a great challenge for us.”
It also goes a long ways toward explaining why Tom Brady didn’t take one snap in the game.
|Matt Light talks Patriots on the NFL Network||05.22.12 at 11:47 pm ET|
Former Patriots offensive lineman Matt Light spent some quality time with the gang from NFL Network’s “Total Access” on Tuesday night, and they touched on a wide variety of topics, including retirement, Wes Welker’s contract situation and what the Patriots might look like in 2012.
On the first few weeks of retirement: “I’m breathing easier. I get out of bed and I feel lighter. It’s a new era.”
On not having to worry about Patriots head coach Bill Belichick yelling at him anymore: “They’re going through a little bit of that with the OTAs. I’ve been grateful for every experience I’ve had and sharing a locker room with [Willie McGinest and Heath Evans] and a whole other cast of characters. Really right now my biggest focus is my kids. A lot of soccer games, a lot of hanging out and doing a little bit of nothing.”
On Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker’s value from a football standpoint: “It’s not hard to see. What you see on the field is what you get, and you have a guy that has a relentless pursuit for perfection. That’s not something you can coach; it’s just born in him. What he brings to our locker room, what he brings to our workouts in the offseason and what he brings to the field, it’s hard to measure that all. It’s pretty big.”
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