FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - The New England Patriots re-signed veteran wide receiver Troy Brown and veteran guard Stephen Neal today. Terms of the agreements were not disclosed.
Brown, 34, has spent his entire pro career with the Patriots after being drafted in the eighth round (198th overall) of the 1993 NFL Draft. In his 13 professional seasons, the 5-foot-10-inch, 196-pound receiver has played in 175 games, placing him seventh on the franchise's all-time games played list. He has been the longest-tenured member of the team since 2002 and was voted an offensive captain for each of the last four seasons (2002-05).
Brown ranks second on the team's all-time receiving list with 514 career receptions and also places second in team history with 5,982 receiving yards. He needs just 21 more receptions to pass Stanley Morgan's franchise record (534 receptions) and become the Patriots' all-time leading receiver. Brown is already the Patriots' all-time leading punt returner with 244 career returns for 2,554 yards and is tied with Irving Fryar for the team mark with three punt returns for touchdowns. Combining his career punt returns and kickoff returns, Brown is the franchise's all-time leading return specialist with 4,416 combined return yards. In 2004 he added defense to his resume as he saw significant action in the defensive backfield and finished second on the team with three interceptions.
Last season, Brown finished third on the team with 39 receptions for 466 yards and two touchdowns in the regular season. He reprised his jack-of-all-trades role in the playoffs, seeing extended action on defense for the first time all season as he recorded four solo tackles against Jacksonville in a 2005 Wild Card Round game while also adding an 11-yard touchdown reception in the same contest.
The Marshall University product was named to the Pro Bowl in 2001, a season in which he set the Patriots' single-season franchise record with 101 receptions. That year, he recorded 1,199 receiving yards, placing him second on the team's single-season list behind Stanley Morgan (1,491 yards in 1986). He followed up his record-setting campaign with a 97-catch season in 2002, a mark that ranks second in team history to his own 2001 total. Also that year, he recorded a team-record 16 catches in a game against Kansas City at Gillette Stadium (9/22/02).
In 2004, Brown earned accolades for his play on offense, defense and special teams, showing a level of versatility unmatched in recent NFL history. After injuries had taken a toll on the Patriots' secondary, Brown pitched in as the team's nickel back for the final nine games of the regular season and for all three of the Patriots' postseason contests as New England won Super Bowl XXXIX. He finished second on the team with three interceptions in the 2004 regular season and matched his reception total with 17 tackles on defense.
The Blackville, S.C. native has been a key contributor to each of the Patriots' three Super Bowl runs. In 2001, Brown led the team with 18 postseason receptions as New England won its first world championship in Super Bowl XXXVI. In that game against the St. Louis Rams, Brown led the team with six receptions and 89 yards, including a key 23-yard grab on the game-winning drive. Two years later, he tied for the team lead with 17 playoff receptions as the Patriots won Super Bowl XXXVIII over Carolina. He was again a key contributor in that game, finishing second on the team with eight receptions, including three grabs on the game-winning drive. In 2004, Brown played on offense, defense and special teams in all three playoff games, recording a total of five receptions and six tackles during New England's Super Bowl XXXIX title run.
Brown's career statistics include 175 games played (with 61 starts), 514 receptions for 5,982 yards and 27 touchdowns, 244 punt returns for 2,554 yards and three touchdowns, 87 kickoff returns for 1,862 yards, 28 rushes for 160 yards, 17 defensive tackles (15 solo), three interceptions and five passes defensed.
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 34 career games with 31 starts. He has started each of the last 30 games at right guard, recording the longest current consecutive starts streak on the Patriots offensive line.
Last season, Neal started all 16 regular-season games and both playoff games at right guard and was part of an offensive line that allowed just 28 sacks and paved the way for the team to record five 100-yard rushing games. 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, including Super Bowl XXXIX. 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.
Neal joined the Patriots on the eve of training camp in 2001, but was released following camp and spent much of his rookie season on the Philadelphia Eagles' practice squad. He was signed off of the Eagles practice squad to the Patriots active roster on Dec. 12, 2001, and was listed among New England's day-of-game inactives for the final three regular-season games and for all three 2001 playoff games, including Super Bowl XXXVI. In 2002, Neal made his NFL debut on Oct. 6 and recorded his first career start the following week against Green Bay, but left that game due to injury and missed the remainder of the 2002 and 2003 seasons.
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.