During his retirement press conference, Troy Brown got a handshake and hug from Bill Belichick, who said it was a "privilege and an honor" to coach Brown. (Barry Chin / Boston Globe)
Troy Brown's last route as a Patriot is taking him to retirement.
The popular wide receiver announced this morning that he's ending his playing career after 15 seasons with the New England Patriots during which he set a team record for receptions while building a reputation as one of the most dependable and versatile players in franchise history.
Brown, who played one game last season and remained unsigned this year, made the announcement at a news conference at Gillette Stadium attended by team owner Robert Kraft and coach Bill Belichick.
"It's hard to let go," said Brown, who will immediately join Comcast SportsNet as an analyst focusing on the Patriots. "But I know, at the end of the day, I played this game the way it supposed to be played."
Brown, 37, spent his entire career with the Patriots after he was drafted in the eighth round (198th overall) in 1993 out of Marshall. His 557 catches are first in team history and his 6,366 yards receiving are second to Stanley Morgan’s 10,352. Brown, who also filled in at defensive back late in his career and was an outstanding return man in his prime, played in one Pro Bowl, after the 2001 season.
"You can't outrun Father Time, as hard as you try to do it," Brown said. "There comes a time when you say 'I can't keep up the way I used to.' "
Brown was primarily a kickoff and punt returner in his first four seasons, catching a total of 37 passes and never starting a game. But in 1997 he started six games and finished with 41 receptions. He caught 83 passes in 2000, then set a single-season team record in 2001 with 101 catches. Wes Welker broke that last season with 112.
In 2004, when injuries struck the secondary, Brown played in 12 games as a defensive back and intercepted three passes.
“He had some big plays for us on the defensive side of the ball,” Belichick said. “Troy, we have so many great memories of you and all that you’ve done for this organization.”
Belichick, who said it was a "privilege and an honor" to coach Brown, recalled some of the player's greatest highlights, among them:
Belichick spoke in depth and with admiration about Brown's performance against Driver, saying the team has a photo of that play hanging in the walls of Gillette Stadium. He believes the picture epitomizes what Brown was all about as a player.
Kraft, who introduced Brown at the press conference by saying, "I want to welcome Troy Brown back to his home," also noted that the receiver was always "the consummate professional."
"Whenever someone talks about Troy Brown, they talk about what a good human being he is and what a good name he has," Kraft said.
Kraft then revealed that team's game Nov. 13, against the Jets before a nationally televised audience, will be Troy Brown Night. The owner unveiled a poster promoting the occasion.
Brown confirmed he had passed up chances to play for the rival Jets.
"I probably had the opportunity to do it but it just wasn’t the right color. I didn’t think I looked good in green and white," Brown joked, before talking about how much it meant to him to be a lifetime Patriot.
"The only colors you'll ever see on my back are the red, white, and blue of the New England Patriots. I'm proud to say it," he said, his eyes moistening with a few tears.
The Patriots let him become an unrestricted free agent after the 2000, 2005 and 2006 seasons, but re-signed him each time.
Brown began last season on the physically unable to perform list before being activated with five games left. He was inactive for all but one, against Miami in the next-to-last game, and didn’t play in the postseason.
"It's a wonderful ride," Brown said. "I can't think of anything better in life than enjoying a Sunday afternoon playing football. Now I enjoy Sunday afternoons watching football and saying in my head, 'I can make that play.' "
In a particularly emotional moment, Brown’s son, who was crying, asked the final question of the press conference:
“If you love the game so much, why are you retiring?”
Brown looked at his son and said, “I would love to keep playing, but there comes a time when the man upstairs … you can’t outrun God. He tells you you’re 37. Your knee is supposed to be hurting. Your hip is hurting. There are a bunch of 22-year-olds taking your place. There are very few places for guys 37, 38 years old. You just have to move on and craft other goals.
"It’s a sad day for me, too. … Daddy still loves football.”
(Mike Reiss of the Globe staff contributed to this report from Foxborough. Material from the Associated Press was also used.)