FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - The New England Patriots re-signed restricted free agent guard Stephen Neal today. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
Neal, 28, was originally signed by the Patriots as an undrafted free agent on July 23, 2001. The 6-foot-4-inch, 305-pound offensive lineman has played in 18 career games with 15 starts. In 2004, Neal settled into a role as the team's starting right guard and started the final 14 games of the regular season and all three playoff games.
The offensive line enjoyed one of the most successful seasons in club history, paving the way for the team to average more than four yards per carry for the first time in 19 seasons and helping running back Corey Dillon set a single-season franchise record with 1,635 rushing yards. Additionally, the offensive line allowed just 26 sacks, the fewest by the Patriots in 10 years.
The San Diego native did not play football in college and instead was a championship wrestler at Cal State-Bakersfield. As a wrestler, he compiled a 156-10 record and won two NCAA Division I titles. In 1999, Neal won the Dan Hodge Award - known as the Heisman Trophy of wrestling - following a year in which he won the U.S. Freestyle Championship, the Pan-American Games title and the World Championships.