THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

A few recent retirees get to huddle

Brown, Harrison Bruschi all on hand

By Monique Walker
Globe Staff / September 15, 2009

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FOXBOROUGH - Troy Brown spotted his former Patriots teammates finishing up a light lunch yesterday. Brown slowly walked up behind Rodney Harrison and firmly gripped his shoulders. Then he extended a hand across the table to Tedy Bruschi.

Harrison playfully tapped Brown’s stomach as they greeted each other for the first time since last season. They are officially on the new team of retirees.

“He was trying to see if I had a spare tire in there,’’ Brown said. “We always had an ongoing joke in the locker room about who was in better shape. So old habits never die.’’

The trio was part of a group that gathered at The Hall at Patriot Place for ESPN’s “Monday Night Football Chalk Talk.’’ They were also featured members of the Patriots’ 50th anniversary team, which was honored at halftime of last night’s season opener.

“It was great,’’ Brown said. “I haven’t seen [Harrison] since last season. I saw him on TV a few times and he’s doing a great job with NBC. It’s been great to touch base with some of the fellas that I played with and also getting a chance to mingle with a bunch of the guys I didn’t get a chance to play with and never got a chance to meet. It’s good catching up on some of those old stories and hear how things were for them here in Foxborough back when they played and just see how the game has changed and see how the game has stayed the same also. It’s pretty cool.’’

Brown was the first among the three to retire. He retired last September after 15 seasons with the Patriots, the same team that drafted him in the eighth round in 1993 out of Marshall. Brown owned the team’s season record for receptions with 101 in 2001, but it was broken by Wes Welker’s 112 catches in 2007.

When Brown stepped away from football, one of his sons struggled with the decision.

“My oldest son asked me why I had to retire and it was just, ‘I’m getting old, man. You can’t outrun Father Time,’ ’’ Brown said.

But Brown said the biggest benefit is spending more time with his family. He has kept his home in the area, but also spends time in West Virginia, his home state.

“Actually, my body feels great and the kids are getting to enjoy more time with me, and they enjoy having me around a little more often,’’ Brown said. “I get to take them to practice and run with them when they’re practicing sometimes.’’

Brown is not on the field anymore, but he has remained around the game as an analyst for Comcast SportsNet. Harrison (NBC) and Bruschi (ESPN) followed the television route. Bruschi retired Aug. 31 after 13 seasons.

Harrison said he doesn’t have any regrets about retiring in June. He played 15 seasons, six with the Patriots, and is the only player to have 30 sacks (30 1/2) and 30 interceptions (34) in a career. Harrison remains visible and vocal when it comes to the Patriots, but he said he didn’t feel the desire to return to the field as last night approached.

“I’m at a place where I’m very content with what I’ve done in the National Football League for 15 years,’’ Harrison said. “I’ve had a lot of success, had a lot of great times, had some tough times, as well, that shaped me into the situation that I’m in now, which I’m very happy. I’m at peace, and it’s exciting to be around all of these guys and these famous players who made such an impact on the game.’’

After a long NFL career, it is the simple things that Harrison said he can appreciate now.

“Just waking up in the morning and not feel sore, not feel pain, not feel like I’m obligated. No more do I have the anxiety or the pressure to be in the best shape and that I have to compete with these young guys. I’m at peace right now.’’

Monique Walker can be reached at mwalker@globe.com.

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