TB: I don’t know. I’m usually a pretty happy person. I don’t think I cry very easily. It just brings back a lot of memories and hopefully I’ll see a lot of familiar faces that I haven’t seen in awhile. I think this is a great way to cap off what everybody – Bill [Belichick] was talking about a great career that I put together for myself with the help of so many people – it’s a great way to cap that off. I don’t want to say bring it to an end or close it out, but just to cap it off. You can’t get any greater honor than this when you’re a Patriot.
Q: Do you feel like you can still play?
TB: Every once in awhile I do. I can call Bill [Belichick] up right now and tell him I have four of five good [plays] in me, but in all actuality it would probably be one play and I’m done but I could go out and block somebody probably.
TB: It’s great because when Vince came onto the scene with us, I think my leadership abilities had already blossomed. Before he got here, Vince didn’t know me as being this really, really quiet guy in the corner. Kevin Faulk always talks about me as a leader even though I didn’t talk a whole lot and do all those things, but for a guy like Vince to say that and to watch him play the game the way he does, I think [the idea] that some of the way I went about doing things rubbed off on him means a lot. You did your best to set a good example.
Q: You use the word blossom. How does leadership blossom? How did it work out in your case?
TB: For a long time I didn’t realize it. I just talked about Kevin Faulk just now and I never really realized that he was watching me as much as he was. I was kind of the same way – I watched a lot of guys, I watched everybody. Just how they went about doing things and things they said and did, I kind of learned from that. When you don’t realize it, you just don’t. When you finally realize what position you’re in and how you have to be a good example for the rest of the guys to study and take care of their bodies and do all those things. I was probably in my 10th or 11th year, somewhere in there.
Q: Can you reflect upon getting cut that first year?
TB: It was something I deserved. I didn’t play very well in the preseason. I had the good fortune of talking to Bill [Parcells] for a long, long time at the National Football League Hall of Fame in Canton when Curtis Martin got inducted. We talked and we chatted for about an hour and talked about all those things and all those good days. He was really proud of the way things turned out for me after all that stuff, down to being cut. He was really happy about it and I’ve always had a tremendous respect for Bill Parcells and the way he went about doing things. He’s a tough guy and he had his beliefs and he stuck with them, but that doesn’t mean that I couldn’t try to prove him wrong. It made me a better player, I think. It made me a better person and everything else. Being cut is not fun because I was out for over half the season that year. I came back and I lost my number – I used to be Irving Fryar and I came back as Stanley Morgan. It wasn’t fun. He kind of beat me up a little bit when I got back. Obviously, when the season was over, it’s my second year and I’m still a free agent; I didn’t know what was going to happen in the offseason and if they were going to sign me back or not. He did again and gave me another opportunity and it’s been pretty good since then.
Q: One of the plays that stands out to me was your punt return in the AFC Championship Game. That was one of the plays that launched this franchise into their complete turnaround. What are your thoughts on the play?
TB: That was probably one of my all-time favorites because it was against Pittsburgh. My brother was a Pittsburgh fan growing up; I happened to be a Cowboys fan, [and] as you know the Cowboys got beat up by Pittsburgh all the time in the ‘70s. They really didn’t like them, so what better way to get them back than to stick it to them yourself? That was a huge, huge play in my career and in the Patriots franchise history. It gave us an opportunity to – I know this cliché or whatever, but nobody gave us a shot, nobody gave us a chance to win and we went out there and handled our business the way we were supposed to.
Q: Another play that sticks out is the play that set up Adam Vinatieri’s field goal. What do you remember about that drive and about that catch?
TB: It was just everybody being extremely calm. There really was not a lot of panic for the situation that it was. I think a lot of that had to do with the way Tom [Brady] came into the huddle to start that drive. He came into the huddle, he gave us the two plays and he didn’t have a look of fear in his eye. I’ve always said it’s important when a lot of people react to the way their leader acts. He came in, we were on the 17-yard line after my big return out of the end zone. He came in just as calm as he could be. He was a young guy himself with a banged up ankle. We got the drive off to a pretty good start, hitting [J.R.] Redmond a couple times and getting out of bounds. That entire time nobody showed any signs of panic or desperation; we were in it together.
Q: A lot of people say things like that turn into slow motion. What do you remember? What was going through your head when you caught that ball?
TB: I couldn’t believe I was that wide open. The plays before they were in sort of a man-type defense and it was giving us a bit of trouble trying to get the ball downfield, so we kept hitting J.R. with dump passes and he did a great job of breaking some tackles and getting out of bounds on one of them and stopping the clock. They decided to switch it up for a second and when they did, we hit it for a pretty good chunk to get us in good position.
Q: Are you surprised you played as long as you did and what do you attribute your longevity to?
TB: I wouldn’t say surprised because I set my goals to be impossible anyway, so I wouldn’t say surprised. I think if you look where it started from and how it started, I think a lot of people would be surprised that I made it 15 years with this team and this organization. I just enjoyed working hard, I enjoyed grinding things out, I enjoyed sweating, I enjoyed doing all the things that labored and going through the pain of weeks of hard labor. That’s just the way I was brought up, the way I was raised. I’ve been doing manual labor since I was nine or 10 years old so that’s just me and I enjoy that type of stuff.
Q: How does it feel to be the first in what’s going to be a pretty incredible pack of future Patriots Hall of Famers?
TB: All these things are kind of just falling in my lap I guess. I never really looked at it that way. It’s a long list of guys coming up behind me. To be one of the first of that group of guys that set such a great example for the way New England does things, not only New England but teams around the league now are trying to model themselves after the Patriots – being the first of that group of guys to come along, it says a lot. I feel like I tried to do things the right way and approach the game the right way and I have a lot of respect for the game and the people who played it. You’ll see guys like Tedy [Bruschi], and all those guys, Rodney [Harrison] and Ty [Law] and all those guys come along in the next few years and make the voting hard for you guys, too. I had it easy – not really easy; I had Bill Parcells and Fred Marion, but when you talk about those guys, they’re recent and have a lot more fanfare here in the New England area. Again, it does mean a lot to me to be the first of that group of guys to be going into the Hall of Fame; start lining them up.
Q: You talked about Bill Parcells. Tell us about Bill Belichick and what he meant to your overall development.
TB: It was a situation where I didn’t even really know that Bill and Charlie [Weis] had so much respect for me as a player until they came back here and I guess it was something they had their eye on the whole time. When they came back, I talked to Bill and he mentioned to me how much trouble I gave him getting ready for them when he was with the Jets down there and trying to find guys to practice against to slow our stuff down. He mentioned that he had a lot of respect for me and the way I played the game and approached it. Charlie followed that up with his statements about it. I remember being in Kansas City and them asking me to come back and sign. It was a great gesture from him and it gave me a great boost of confidence that he was willing and able to in his second go-around at being the head coach and he’s going to give a guy that spent the past seven years primarily playing special teams and coming off the bench an opportunity to be a starting receiver and also put his fate in my hands too. He decided to suspend Terry Glenn for the rest of the season. Here it is, David Patten and myself and we had a bunch of other great guys in that receiving corps but I don’t think Tom [Brady] had that much confidence in them, but they brought a lot to the table: Charles Johnson and Freddy Coleman and those guys. Trust me, the few plays they made were huge for us. For him to put that in our laps like that and say, ‘You guys got it. I believe in you,’ meant a lot.
Q: Did Charlie Weis ever yell at you?
TB: Charlie’s never yelled at me before, even when he was here the first go-around with [Bill] Parcells and he was a young guy holding the cards up and he was that guy. I always said [it’s] just because I always tried to do my job and always hustled. That’s the only time that Charlie really got ticked off at a player was they didn’t read the card right or they ran the wrong play or wrong route or something or didn’t try very hard was when he really [got on] a guy. For the most part, I was trying to do the right thing.
Q: You heard Curtis Martin’s Hall of Fame speech a couple weeks ago. What do you want to say to Patriots fans?
TB: Unlike Curtis, I’ve always enjoyed playing football and it’s not something I just did just to get away from anything else. I’ve always enjoyed it. I think for the fans, for the most part, a lot of ups and downs, especially early in my career and then late – you go out the same way you come in they say sometimes. Just thank them for all the support they’ve given. I get tons of tweets, tons of all kinds of things all the time about how they appreciated the way I played the game. I think that means more than anything. They don’t really bring up a lot of numbers and that type of stuff, maybe a few plays here and there. I think the thing that meant the most was that they appreciated the way I went about playing and giving them their ticket prices back.
Q: What does it mean to you to be at the beginning of what this organization has become?
TB: You almost feel like one of the construction workers. I remember taking the picture when this place was being put up, I think it was going into the ’01 season and we all had the boots on and the jackhammers and we took the picture for the cover of the Patriots [Yearbook] and we did that. To see where it is now, I walk over and I walk into the dining hall and it’s first class stuff. I know Robert [Kraft] has been trying to build this place and do it the right way. He likes everything to be first class, so [I] speak great words about him because he does [everything first class]. He’s a great guy, great man, great businessman. He’s been a great father, great husband, all those things he’s been and is and will continue to be. Thank goodness he came in and bought the team when he did because I was here for an entire year and never met the last owner. He’s always around, he always involved and I couldn’t ask for better.