During his farewell press conference, linebacker Tedy Bruschithanked a number of people, not the least of which were his teammates, coaches, and other team employees.
"I talked to a lot of them, individually," Bruschi said. "The moments you have with me are endless, they are endless. I was never scared to just look at somebody and say how I felt about you. If I didn't like you, I would tell you how I felt about you. If I loved you, I would tell you I loved you. It wasn't that hard for me, so I don't feel like I have a lot of goodbyes to say because they all know how I feel about them."
Shortly thereafter, those same teammates had a chance to express their feelings for Bruschi in public.
"He actually called me yesterday and told me about it," fellow linebacker Adalius Thomasrevealed. "It kind of caught me off guard. It was Sunday, and I was just sitting at home watching TV, and I was like, 'Wow!' … you know, 'Congratulations.'
"Hats off to him. It was great while it lasted, playing with him for two years, enjoying the 'backer-hood thing we had going on. He definitely leaves the game better than when he came in. The respect he had around the league, the kind of stuff he went through, coming in, doing his job, being a true professional … that's what you remember him as."
"I used to sit next to him in team meetings," guard Stephen Nealtold reporters. "He just would go out there [on game days] with passion and energy and it would just radiate throughout the team. It was a pleasure to be a Patriot with him."
"It's a shock," said nose tackle Vince Wilfork. "But 13 years is a long time. He's been playing at this level for a long time. These guys in the locker room can tell you what he meant to this team. There are a lot of memories he's going to take with him and leave with us. Between Troy Brown and himself, those are two of the greatest guys I've ever played with.
"Playing with an inside linebacker like that, sometimes it made my job a little easier. We had a lot of fun. We made a lot of plays together. And you know what? He played the game the way it needed to be played. I'm glad he's going out basically on top. He's got a beautiful family and he's going to enjoy them."
A recurring theme in the questions the players faced Monday was how the team would respond to the leadership void that Bruschi's departure creates. To a man, they agreed it would be a challenge, but one they felt prepared to tackle.
"We're going to miss him a lot," Neal said. "There are so many things that he's done. Not to have him there is going to be different. But every year you lose people, and you have to move on."
"I don't think you can fill that void with one person. You have to use numerous people," Thomas observed. "You can't replace a person like Tedy. He's been here, he's seen so much, been through so many things … there has to be more than one person."
"Leadership was always a key with that guy," Wilfork added. "It's going to be tough, but at the same time, we have enough veterans on this team that we can all rally together and try to put together what those guys like Troy Brown and Tedy started. With the group of guys we have, we'll continue it."
Bruschi's retirement was just one move the Patriots announced on Monday. They also released second-year QB Kevin O'Connelland veteran free agent long snapper Nathan Hodel.
O'Connell's departure is shocking, considering only a year ago, he was one of the team's third-round draft choices and appeared to have gained valuable experience as the backup to Matt Cassellast season. New England now has just two quarterbacks behind starter Tom Brady: fifth-year vet Andrew Walterand rookie free agent Brian Hoyer.
Walter, himself a former third-round pick of the Oakland Raiders, took a realistic approach to the news of O'Connell's release.
"It's my fifth year. I've seen guys come and go, and being of those guys myself, I understand that this is a business.
"Right now my goals are the same," added Walter, who was picked up by the Pats less than a month ago, "to make the next practice a good one and build off that and continue building to the point where I'm ready to contribute. I'm still learning the offense and that's all I'm focused on right now."
With Hodel's release, meanwhile, it seems rookie sixth-round pick Jake Ingram has won the job to replace Lonie Paxtonas the team's long snapper.
Late in the day, New England also announced that rookie LB Tyrone McKenzie, a third-round draft choice, was placed on injured reserve, officially ending his first pro season. WR Brandon Tate, also a rookie third-rounder, was placed on Reserve/NFI (non-football-injury list), and veteran OL Mark LeVoirwas place on Reserve/PUP (physically-unable-to-perform). The Patriots are now below the NFL-mandated 75-player roster limit that they were required to meet by September 1.
Monday practice notes
A mix of good and bad news at practice Monday, with regard to attendance. RB Sammy Morriswas back on the field wearing a red, no-contact jersey. He's been out of commission since before the Cincinnati game. WR Ray Ventroneand rookie DL Ron Brace, who missed practices last week prior to the Washington game, were also in uniform again.
However, there were still 12 players absent (as was the case last week), because three new players were among the missing. CB Terrence Wheatley, RB Laurence Maroney, and TE David Thomas, all of whom played against the Redskins last Friday, were not on the field Monday.
Also absent from the media's 15-20 minute window at the start of practice were rookie WR Julian Edelman, CB Shawn Springs, OL Dan Connolly, WR Wes Welker, rookie DL Myron Pryor, LB Shawn Crable, and DL Mike Wright.
With a short week of practice in advance of Thursday's preseason finale versus the New York Giants, the Patriots took the practice field in shells (smaller, lighter shoulder pads) and shorts.