Just how excited is Matt Light to put on the only helmet he's ever worn in the NFL and get back on the field with his teammates when CBA rules allow with the start of the new league year on Thursday evening?
"There has not been a time in my life when I've been more ready to play the game of football," Light told reporters prior to New England's practice Wednesday night at Gillette Stadium. "I think being away from it, and not being able to be around the guys, not being able to enjoy an offseason program like we do around here, for a lot of guys in our locker room at least it was painful. So to be able to come back here and be a part of this team, this organization, we're all fired up for this one."
New England's second-round pick in 2001, Light officially re-signed with the team this week with a reported two-year deal worth $12 million. Throughout the summer lockout and recent hectic free agent period Light was hopeful he'd be returning to Foxborough, but wasn't sure.
"There is always doubt, unfortunately, because it's a business," Light said. "I think throughout the whole process we were hopeful this would be the outcome. We're happy to be here.
"There was a lot going on at that time (of the start of free agency). But at the end of the day we're back here where we belong."
The three-time Pro Bowler was asked if he was excited to be back once again protecting Tom Brady's blindside, but he chose to take a bigger picture view of his return.
"At the end of the day it's more this organization," Light said. "I shared with the Kraft family what it meant for me to be a part of this the last decade and the caliber of player that they bring in, the work ethic and the expectations and everything all wrapped into one. I mean there's a reason why we've been successful and there is a reason why guys want to play here. Again, I'm just happy to be a part of it for another year, or two."
At some point the left tackle of the last decade will be joined by the guy who the team likely hopes will replace him for the next 10 years. New England selected Nate Solder with the 17th overall pick last April, and though the rookie remains unsigned at this point his future veteran teammate understands the situation at hand.
"Competition is the name of the game," Light said. "There is always going to be pushing everybody at every level when you have a coach like Bill [Belichick] and the rest of the staff. And I think it's a good thing. I think it drives all of us. That's why we're out here. We're out here to compete. Compete against each other. Compete against the opponent. Drafting a guy to come in and fill in for these old bones, it was inevitable. Hopefully we'll have some fun teaching him a thing or two out here."
He also expects to have some fun getting to know some of his new teammates, including somewhat controversial additions Albert Haynesworth and Chad Ochocinco.
"I'm never surprised at what they do," Light said of New England's two trades. "They bring in quality guys and trust me, having played against Albert Haynesworth and knowing what he can do on the field that's going to be a big boost for our defensive line. Seeing what Chad can do on the field, that's obvious as well. I think everybody is really excited about both those guys as well as some of these rookies and the other free agents that have come in."
But Light is most amped up about getting back to playing football, an opportunity he'll get Thursday evening. As New England's player representative and an active member of the NFLPA, Light is well aware that chance comes thanks in large part to Patriots owner Robert Kraft's efforts throughout the labor negotiation process.
"I think from day one, even if I went back to last season it was always get the lawyers out of the room, let's get together, sit down, let's have a real conversation," Light said of the negotiations. "I guess that's a hard thing to do, but he was the only one who was really able to make that happen. What you saw with [Jeff] Saturday and some of the other guys on the executive committee, their reaction to his involvement speaks volumes. I know that when we went to the meetings they let me know how important it was to have him in that room and what kind of leadership and just really experience he brought to the whole conversation, which really was the thing that was lacking for a long time. So we're all grateful that all happened."
Now, Light can simply get back to the business of football, the business of protecting Brady's backside in New England. He'll get back at that when he finally dons his helmet and pads on Thursday, the first time he's done so since last January's playoff loss.
"It's an exciting time. Whether you've been doing it for two months or twenty years you definitely feel a little bit of a transition there," Light said of strapping 'em up. "It'll happen and it will be like old days. Once you hit somebody in the mouth once it's like you've done it a hundred times."