New England Patriots wide receiver David Patten announces his retirement from the NFL during his press conference at Gillette Stadium on Saturday, July 31, 2010.
BB: I spoke with David [Patten] this morning and David and I have a great relationship. We go all the way back to 2000. Even though he wasn't here in 2000, we go back that far. David and I talked this morning and he informed me of his desire to retire at this point. I just wanted to say a few words and we'll announce that here in a couple minutes. Our relationship started in 2000 when I first got here and he was one of the first players we tried to sign. Unfortunately, we weren't in a very good salary cap situation – we were like 35 million over the cap or whatever it was. So he ended up signing with the Giants. I don't know, 150, 200 bucks? What did we lose out on there? But anyway, then in 2001 we were able to work things out and we were in a much better position then and David came here and has really been a outstanding player for this organization. One of the things I would say about David [is] we have a lot of players that work hard, but I think David sets the pace for work ethic. In the offseason program he's always out in front. He's always the one that other players try to keep up with and he's got a great attitude, a very professional attitude and his work ethic, his toughness and of course his speed and receiving ability – those are the things that kept him in the league and made him the outstanding player that he was. There are a number of times when I've been over in the Hall [at Patriot Place] next door or you flip on the TV and it seems like there's always a David Patten highlight. He had so many big plays for us – of course the catch in Super Bowl 36. I remember when we changed that play; I can still see it down there in the Tulane practice field. We ran the out-cut. I was talking to Ernie [Adams] and [we] felt like they would be sitting on the route just the way we were playing. And then Charlie [Weis] and I talked about it and we turned it into an out-and-up and it was the only offensive touchdown in the game. That's just a typical David Patten play, although he made one the week before against Pittsburgh for a touchdown in that game from Drew [Bledsoe]. He's had a tremendous career. He's meant a lot to this team, a lot to this organization, again going back to '01, '02, '03, when we were getting the program started. The toughness and the attitude and the leadership that he brought to our football team in a kind of quiet, Troy Brown kind of way. He just did his job, worked hard, just set the pace for everybody else to keep up with, including the coaches. He'd outwork us too. That was very important. So in bringing David back this year, we had a good conversation in the offseason and he wanted to continue to play. He can still run. He's made a lot of plays in the spring and even in training camp. We talk about him in the defensive meetings all the time about his vertical speed and his big play ability. I think he's had a good camp, but I know – and we went through this last year with Tedy – I know that there's a time. And I've had experience with a lot of players and it all ends for them and us at some point. And I know when a player says it's time, and somebody like David who has thought about it and has the experience that he has, when he says it's time, I know that it is time. It's a sad moment, but it's also a very happy one to celebrate a truly great career. The rags to riches story coming off of unloading coffee bags or beans or whatever it was, to the NFL career that he's had, it's just a tremendous story and very deserving of the type of person and the type of player that David was for the New England Patriots and throughout his career in the league. So we say goodbye, we wish him well and from the bottom of my heart, thank him for his contributions to our football team, this organization, this community. And on a personal note, my sincere personal thanks for all you've done for me and for our football team.
WIDE RECIEVER DAVID PATTEN
Q: Why are you retiring?
DP: Trust me, this is in no way, shape or form what I anticipated coming back here this year. I'm actually a little sad that I'm proving some of the naysayers right this morning. Some kind of felt that I just came and signed back with the team just to retire, but that was no way any part of my thought process. I honestly felt like I could still play this game and play it at a high level. I felt like the competitive, spirited nature was still here, but over the course of the last two days, over the course of the break away from the team, there was a lot of reflection, and there was a lot of contemplation and it just felt like it was time. It just hit me yesterday. As I stated earlier, camp was going really well. I was still able to go out there and be competitive and operate at a high level, but you know, I l believe once you get to the point in your career where it's multiple years – it would have been my 13th year – once you begin to start to think about it mentally and you're not 100 percent in it mentally-wise, it's tough to play this game. I always felt like when I got to that point, it would just be in my best interest to walk away.
Q: Was there a particular play yesterday that made you decide this?
DP: There was no particular play. I actually had a really good practice. When you've played this game as long as I have and have the success that I've had – not one of the statistical leaders, but I've been a part of great teams from '01-'04, I had some great years down in New Orleans and [with] other teams. When you lose it mentally, you can't play at this level. You can't play at a high level. With my nature, I always felt like whenever I got to that point where I couldn't go out there day in and day out consistently at a high level, it was time to walk away. It just proved to me. Everything is fine; the body is 100 percent healthy, and the fact that I'm thinking this way, it's just time to leave the game because it just requires too much. For the most part, the only thing that you guys see is what takes place on the field, but there is so much that goes on behind the scenes: sitting around getting the body right, icing the body, taking care of little knick knacks and things like that. That's the part that most people don't see and don't know about. I think that's what kind of drove me to my decision.
Q: When you reflect on your career, what comes to mind?
DP: By far, from '01-04, the times here. As the coach stated earlier, they wanted to bring me in in 2000. But for whatever reason I chose to go down to Cleveland – for a little more money – $50,000, I think that's what it was. But at that point in my career, you kind of have to do what you feel is best. But life has a way of working itself out as well as your football career and the following year, coming here, I believe they gave me like a $50,000 signing bonus. About two weeks into camp, Belichick said I would have an opportunity to fight for a starting job. By the time I had gotten into camp, there were like six different additional receivers and I was like number six on the depth chart – Charles Johnson, Torrance Small, Bert Emanuel all those guys that played 10-plus years and had a lot more stats than I did. I believe a week into camp, Belichick comes and calls me out of a meeting, and I'm thinking he's getting ready to release me, because during training camp if you get called out of a meeting, there's not too much good going on. He calls me out of the meeting and he's like, 'Hey, you've shown us that you have the capability to be a good player and we want to sign you to an extension.' That was the beginning to it all. I think I signed a three-year extension. Over those four years, it was just great times. He spoke of my work ethic. That's something we talk about as players. Don't get me wrong, you play for the money, you play for the championships, but at the end of the day, you just want your fellow players, your teammates and your coaches to know that you gave everything that you have on a day in and day out basis. Upon me notifying the players today that I was retiring, it does my heart good because I really haven't been around a lot of these guys for an extended period of time. It's [been] over the course of the last two and a half months. What has been expressed from these guys in the short period of time that I've been around them – how much they appreciate my work ethic, my professionalism, what I stand for, the type of man that I am. That's what really makes me feel good and that's basically what's driven my career. I can honestly say that as sad a day as it is, it is also a joyous day because my fellow teammates and my coaches know that I've given everything that I have.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about your relationship with Coach Belichick? It seems to transcend a little bit the normal coach and player relationship?
DP: I think when you talk about Coach Belichick, he'll probably go down in history as one of the best coaches ever. And the type of players that he looks for, not only does he look for tough, smart football players, but he looks for selfless players, hardworking players, players that will put themselves on the back burner for the good of the whole. As philosophical as that may seem or sound, there's really a lot to be said for that because in this day and time of selfishness, a lot of times it's perceived that everyone is out for themselves. And for the most part, every guy that [wears] those uniforms, they have that type of mentality. As he was addressing the team this morning, this is the ultimate team sport. When you sign up to play football, it's really not about you. You can have all the accolades and you can have all the personal accomplishments that you want, but the bottom line is it comes down to who is the best team. I think that's what he looks for in a player and that's something I was able to exhibit over my 12-year career.
Q: Last year after you got cut by Cleveland did you have to go through a process of thinking about retirement?
DP: Well, actually, in Cleveland I was dealing with some injury issues. I had some turf toe problems and it kind of prohibited me from going out there and producing on the field. Throughout the recovery process I kind of weighed back and forth whether I should play, whether I should go home, whether I should play. Myself and Eric Mangini had a really good relationship due to the prior years here back from '01-'04 and the three championships. He kind of talked me out of it each time. I just kind of felt like over a period of time, once I was able to get healthy, through those discussions they kind of felt like my heart still really wasn't in it. At that time, I felt the same way. Normally you deal with an injury, because we have such a competitive nature to play this game, you brush it off. 'Ok, I'm going to get healthy and I'm going to come back and I'm going to come back better.' But instead of me having that mentality, I was like, 'Should I go home? Should I go home and be with the family?' So at that time, I didn't think that I wanted to play. So last year instead of me making it official and officially retiring, I said, 'I'm going to just sit on it this year and see how I feel at the end of the year.' That's why I called up Belichick at the end of the year and I said, 'I still want to play. I'm healthy. Bring me in and see if you still think I'm able to help the team.' And they brought me in a worked me out and they felt the same. But you know, I'm healthy now. I had a great practice yesterday. I feel like I want to walk away. I feel like it's time. Aside from the fact that I'm leaving something that I've done my whole life, other than that, I feel really good about it.
Q: It's probably not fair to ask you for a favorite memory right now, but I think everybody remembers the game in Indianapolis where you scored just about every possibly way that anybody can score. Is that the kind of thing where you look back at that now and say 'wow, I can't believe that happened?' Obviously when that happened, it was more about the team and nobody gets into the individual accomplishments during a season, but now is that going to be a special moment for you to remember?
DP: I think those are the type of memories that will drive me into the sort of twilight years or the regular life or what have you. It's those times that you'll reflect on. As long as you play the game, you try not to reflect on the past too often because it's all about the here and now, the present. As you bring that up, that was a very special day. I can look back to the Chicago game when we were down 27 points or something like that in the fourth quarter and I catch the game winning touchdown. I can go back to the Kansas City Chiefs game where we were blowing them out, but I catch an in-cut, a one-handed grab, reverse field, stiff arm the safety and take it for about a 60-yard score and I jump about five yards into the endzone. As you bring up those types of memories, now you sit back. Now you reflect on it and say, 'Hey, the career wasn't that bad. Not bad for a kid, undersized out of Columbia, South Carolina, small 1AA school, undrafted, working in a coffee bean factory, electricians work, landscaper. Who would have thought, 15 years later, 12 years in the National Football League, three championships, so many memories. Now I can sit back and reflect on it and now I can pass this on to my kids. Amazing.
Q: Do you think you were able to impart some knowledge onto some of the younger guys here? Did you get to spend some time teaching while you were here?
DP: No doubt about it. Like I said, I've only had about two and a half months with the team. The majority of these guys I've never played with. They didn't know me. I didn't know them. Upon bringing me back, they kind of embraced me as the old veteran guy. All the stories that they've heard and all the highlights that they've seen of myself, but until you get a chance to spend time with a person, you really don't know who they are. I do believe over the past two and a half months – which was expressed today – that I left an impression on them, that I taught them what it means to be a professional, what it means to be selfless, what it means to go out there day in and day out and work hard. Throughout my career I've always prided myself on leading by example. So many times Coach Belichick mentions leading not so much by what you say, but by what you do. Upon me notifying a few of the guys this morning, the expressions that they had towards me really made me feel good because [even though] it goes back over a short period of time, I'll never forget it. It was once said that 'I can't hear what you're saying because your actions are speaking so loud,' and to see the expressions on faces, the lack of words, the sincerity felt in the voice, really makes me feel good.
Q: Have you given any thought to what you are going to do now?
DP: Not really. I am a minister. I'll focus on that. I have a few businesses in line. I really haven't given it much thought because as long as you play this game, you try to be wholeheartedly committed to it. But I'm quite sure I'll land on my feet.
Q: What was your family's reaction when you told them?
DP: They actually don't know. It's all sort of spur of the moment. I really haven't had a chance to talk it over with them, but I'm quite sure they'll hear about it now.
Q: You certainly know what it takes to win a championship. Do you have any sense of the caliber of team you are leaving behind because they have so many young players here now?
DP: I think the foundation is in place, as long as Coach Belichick is at the helm, with the type of guys that are on this team – Tom [Brady], Randy [Moss], [Wes] Welker – the team is built with work ethic guys. That's something that I've learned about being here. When you're on the outside looking in, you only hear the media's perspective, but getting the chance to know some of these guys, they like playing with one another. They enjoy going out and playing, working. They believe in their coach, so [it's] proof that the foundation is in place.
Q: You played with a special group of receivers – Troy Brown, Deion Branch, David Givens. How special was it to play with that group?
DP: It was extremely tough because we all basically came in together. Troy had been here for several years and he was pretty much the number one receiver at that time, and Deion Branch and David Givens were the young receivers. I was in my fifth year, so me and Troy were like the veteran leaders for those guys. They came in and we came up together – a bunch of no-names, sort of to say, because none of us really had that name recognition. Teams weren't coming in game planning for any one particular receiver, but we prided ourselves on being a unit. When that core was broken up, it was extremely tough because we knew what we had, we knew the type of camaraderie that we had, the work ethic that we put in collectively. We were genuinely happy for each other. But you know, in this game, in life, you deal with different things and you have to deal with them as they are. It was a great time and a great experience together.
Q: Did you get any reaction from Tom Brady? Obviously he's a guy you saw come in at 23 years old and now he's a worldwide super star…
DP: Naturally, he tried to talk me out of it because he's a major reason why I decided to even come back and give it a shot here because he thought that I could still play. He still had the confidence in me. That was part of the reason why I didn't talk to him prior to me making this decision because I kind of thought that he would try to talk me out of it. He can be pretty persuasive when he wants to, but as I say, although this is a sad moment and a sad day, at the same time this is extremely joyful because of those types of reactions. He has gone from being Tom Brady to basically a superstar. Walking out the door, everyone knows who he is, and the expression I received from him today really lets me know that I made an impression on my fellow teammates and that makes me feel good.
Q: What was the hardest thing about pulling the trigger and actually doing it?
DP: It really wasn't that hard. The hardest part about it now is getting out of here. Actually, if I had my way, I would have kind of just ridden off into the sunset, quiet, the same way that I came in. But to have this opportunity to come and address the media and to address the fans, to address the New England area and let everyone know that I appreciate the opportunity that I've had to play here, I appreciate all of the experiences that I've had here. This opportunity to be here, it makes me feel good. It makes me feel appreciated. I've been gone for the past six years and to have the opportunity to be received back with welcome arms and for everything still to be positive and to be remembered for what was accomplished while I was here is unbelievable. It's a true reflection of what you mean as a person. So many times in this game, sometimes you feel like you're just property or you're just a machine. It's when these times come that there will be a separation, that there will be a departure, when it comes down to the end when there is true reflection and people genuinely express how they feel or what they experienced with you. This is when it all kind of comes to the end.
Q: Do you see promising futures for the young receivers – Brandon Tate, Julian Edelman, Taylor Price?
DP: No doubt about it. With the work ethic that those guys have exhibited over the past couple months that I've worked with them, I believe that the sky is the limit for them. It will just come down to maintaining the proper attitude and it will happen. I told them daily that it will happen for them. I believe that I'm an example of that – undrafted, not much expected, but work ethic, the right attitude, putting the team first, it will pay off. It will pay off and I believe that they have all those qualities.