The selfless, hardworking leader said he was "100 percent healthy" and was coming off a "great practice" Friday, but he just wasn?t as mentally into the game as he wanted to be. Patten, who turns 36 next month, said he made his decision Friday — the second day of New England's training camp — and he informed head coach Bill Belichick on Saturday morning. Patten said he came to the decision so quickly that his family hadn?t yet known.
"This is no way, shape or form what I anticipated coming back here this year," Patten said. "I'm actually a little sad, proving the naysayers right this morning. Some said I signed with the team just to come back and retire."
Patten was in his second stint with the Patriots, and through offseason practices and two days of training camp, he appeared to have a shot to make the roster. His chemistry with quarterback Tom Brady — who tried to talk Patten out of retiring Saturday morning — was extremely obvious, and it would have been a valuable asset for a team with a young receiving corps.
However, Patten will say so long to a game that he treated so well — and in return, treated him well back.
"This is a sad moment," Belichick said. "But it?s also a very happy one and one to celebrate — a truly great career, the rags-to-riches story, coming off unloading coffee bags to the NFL career that he's had is a tremendous story, and very deserving of the type of person and the type of player that David was for the New England Patriots and throughout his career in the league."
Patten went undrafted out of Western Carolina and found his way into the league after working as an electrician, a landscaper and in a coffee bean factory. He earned his stripes through hard work and dedication, and Belichick credited Patten as one of the players who got "the program started" in New England.
"We have a lot of players that work hard," Belichick said. "I think David sets the pace in work ethic."
"You play for the money," Patten said. "You play for the championships, but at the end of the day, you just want your fellow players, your teammates and your coaches to know that you gave everything that you have on a day-in and day-out basis."
Patten played in New England from 2001 to 2004, catching 165 passes for 2,513 yards and 16 touchdowns. Patten caught 13 passes for 154 yards and two touchdowns during the Patriots' 2001 postseason run, and two of his touchdown grabs — one against the Steelers in the AFC championship game and another against the Rams in the Super Bowl — have been burned into the memory of Patriots fans.
"There have been a number of times when I've been over in the Hall or flip on the TV," Belichick said. "It seems like there's always a David Patten highlight."
In 12 NFL seasons, he caught 324 passes for 4,715 yards and 24 touchdowns. He also spent time with the Giants, Browns, Redskins and Saints. Patten's last NFL game came in 2008 with New Orleans, but he spent the 2009 training camp in Cleveland before giving it another whirl in New England.
"It just hit me [Friday]," Patten said. "As I stated earlier, camp was going really well. I was still able to go out there and operate at a high level, but I believe once you get to the point in your career where it was my 13th year, once you begin to start thinking about it mentally and you're not 100 percent into it mentally-wise, it's tough to play this game. I always felt once I got to that point, it would just be in my best interest to walk away."
And that?s what Patten will do. He'll return to his family in South Carolina, where he serves as a minister, and start his second career. Things will be a little more modest, a little less flashy, and that?s exactly Patten's style.
"If I had my way," Patten said, "I would have just ridden off into the sunset, quiet, just the way I came in."