“Some felt I signed back with the team to retire, but that was not part of my thought process,” Patten said this morning. “I honestly felt like I could still play this game and play at a high level. I felt the competitive spirit and nature was still there.
“But over the course of the last two days and over the course of the break away from the team, there was a lot of reflection. There was a lot of contemplation. I just felt like it was time. It just hit me yesterday. Camp was going really well.
“I was still able to go out and be competitive and operate at a high level, but I believe once you get to the point in your career where it’s multiple years — it would be my 13th year — and you’re thinking about it mentally and you’re not 100 percent into it mentally wise, it’s tough to play this game. I always felt like when I got to that that point, it would be in my best interests to walk away.”
So today, before even telling his family, Patten drove to the stadium and made the call. He and Bill Belichick sat down, and had a short talk, and then Patten’s teammates were informed.
During that time with the team, Belichick talked about Patten in the context of football being a team game. You could tell listening to the coach this morning that his feelings run deep on this one. Here’s how Belichick opened the press conference …
“David and I talked this morning, and he informed of his desire to retire at this point. So I just want to say a few words, and he’ll announce that here in a few minutes. Our relationship started in 2000 when I first got here, he was one of the first players we tried to sign, and unfortunately we weren’t in a very good salary cap situation, $35 million over salary cap or whatever it was. …
“We had quite a lot of players that work hard. I think David sets the pace as far as work ethic. In the offseason program, he’s always out in front, he’s always the one that other players are trying to keep up with. He’s got a great attitude, a very professional attitude and his work ethic, his toughness, and of course his speed and his receiving ability, those are the things that kept him in the league and made him the outstanding player he was. There are a number of times I’ve been over in the hall next door, or you flip on the TV, and it seems like there’s always a David Patten highlight.
“He had so many big plays for us. Of course, the catch in Super Bowl XXXVI. I remember when we changed that play, I can still see it down there on the Tulane practice field. We ran the out-cut, I was talking to Ernie (Adams), felt like they would sit on the route, just the way they were playing. Then Charlie (Weis) and I talked about it and turned it into an out-and-up, and it was our only offensive touchdown of the game. Although he made one the week before against Pittsburgh for a touchdown in that game.
“He’s had a tremendous career, he’s meant a lot to this team, a lot to this organization going back to ’01, ’02, ’03, when we were getting the program started. The toughness and the attitude and leadership he brought to our football team in kind of a quiet, Troy Brown-kind of way. He did his job, worked hard, set the pace for everybody else to keep up with. The coaches, he’d outwork us too. But it was very important.“