Matt Light May Have Outside Chance to Reach Canton and 19 Other Patriots Thoughts


Matt Light May Have Outside Chance to Reach Canton and 19 Other Patriots Thoughts

FOXBORO, Mass. — This week at Gillette Stadium has somewhat of a symbolic feel. It started with Matt Light's retirement ceremony, and it will conclude with the rookies' first practice in the NFL.

With Light in mind, this Two-Minute Drill has a Hall of Fame feel to it. After, I've got a list of thoughts about the Patriots' offensive backfield. Let's crack it open.

1. Light's retirement ceremony was very well done. The speeches from Light, owner Robert Kraft and head coach Bill Belichick were all terrific. The atmosphere of the Hall of Fame and the fans in attendance gave it an extra boost, too.

2. Light is a no-doubter for the Patriots' Hall of Fame, but the induction line is going to be crowded. I'd expect wide receiver Troy Brown to get in this year, and linebacker Tedy Bruschi, safety Rodney Harrison and Willie McGinest will be eligible in 2013. I think it's safe to assume Bruschi will win that one.

3. Cornerback Ty Law will be eligible in 2014, and linebacker Mike Vrabel will be eligible in 2015. Light will be eligible in 2016, and running back Kevin Faulk might be, too. For the sake of this exercise, let's say Law gets inducted in 2014 and Harrison gets the call in 2015. That still leaves McGinest, Vrabel and former head coach Bill Parcells as Light's competition in 2016, not to mention the possibility of Faulk.

4. It's going to be tough for anyone to beat Faulk in a fan vote, so he's the biggest wild card for Light's potential induction in 2016. Either way, those two should get the call in 2016 and 2017, which could cause McGinest and Vrabel to slide. It's going to be a while before Parcells gets in, too.

5. Don't forget about kicker Adam Vinatieri and defensive lineman Richard Seymour, either. And I have no idea how much longer quarterback Tom Brady and Belichick stay in the game, but yeah, they'll be commemorated somehow.

6. I think it's easy to dismiss Light from the Pro Football Hall of Fame right now, and I subscribe to that theory, too. But I don't believe it's a 100 percent certainty that Light never gets inducted in Canton. About 10, 15, 20 years from now, Light won't be remembered in the same class as Miami's Jake Long or Cleveland's Joe Thomas, but there's an argument that can be made in Light's favor, and I can see the potential for it to gain some momentum.

7. Here's how Light gets in: Someone looks at Brady's Hall of Fame career and says the left tackle played a role, regardless of how large. Then, they'll find the only offensive lineman in history to start five Super Bowls. (If there are others by then, Light will still be known as the first to accomplish the feat.) And they'll see the All-Pro nod from 2007 and his Pro Bowl honors, plus the Patriots' host of accolades during his tenure. Aside from that, it wouldn't be the least bit surprising if Brady and Belichick made some calls to vouch for the Light.

8. Admittedly, it's still a longshot, as it still might not be enough to sway the voters in Light's favor. I still thought it was a theory worth passing along.

9. Left guard Logan Mankins was on hand for the retirement ceremony, and he was coming from a workout so he was wearing gym shorts, which made it clear he wasn't wearing a brace or sleeve over his surgically repaired knee. He was also standing around for at least an hour and a half, which I'd have to believe is a sign of progress.

10. I ran into former Patriots running back Sammy Morris at the ceremony, and he told me he still wants to play in 2012. He made sure to stress he has not hung it up just yet, and he's exploring his options.

11. Since Morris has his permanent home in the Foxboro area, would he like to rejoin the Patriots? "I haven't closed the door on anything," Morris responded.

12. I found the Patriots' decision to sign running back Joseph Addai to be an interesting one, though I want to see him in camp before I know whether or not he can make the team. As the Patriots' best-case scenario, Addai will be a steady role player in the passing game.

13. Then again, the Patriots already have Danny Woodhead and Shane Vereen to play in that capacity, and Faulk wants another chance, too. I thought the Patriots needed to add a veteran running back, but I'm surprised they went this route, rather than a more traditional between-the-tackles back.

14. I also take it as a vote of confidence for Stevan Ridley, who should be the primary ball carrier. In the same regard, my other thought is it could be a good sign for Vereen, too. It's easy to peg Vereen as a bigger asset in the passing game because of his talent in space, but he shouldn't be labeled as a one-trick pony. He's probably a better ball carrier than he's given credit for, though it was hard to get much of a read during a rookie season in which he had 15 total carries.

15. Of course, if the Patriots sign a between-the-tackles back tomorrow — or, at any point before training camp, really — my last two points will be relatively moot.

16. I'm interested to see Navy running back Eric Kettani during training camp, too. Think about it: His summer in 2011 was wiped out due to a calf injury. He earned a spot on the practice squad before getting recalled to the Navy. Belichick didn't want to put Kettani on the reserve/military list at that point because it would have ended his 2011 season, and they held out hope that Kettani would win his appeal and return to New England. Obviously, Belichick likes Kettani, but I haven't seen him get any significant work in practice.

17. With all that said, I wonder if Kettani can be a serviceable between-the-tackles option. He was very effective for Navy in 2007 and 2008, racking up 1,862 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns. I think, at this point, it would be premature to assume he's strictly a blocking fullback.

18. Belichick hasn't exactly employed many fullbacks in recent years, so it was an eye-opener when he signed two of them this offseason. I came across an interesting stat, though. In their careers, Spencer Larsen and Tony Fiammetta have combined for just 28 carries for 88 yards. However, they've turned 11 of those carries (39.3 percent) into first downs. Not bad.

19. The Patriots conduct their rookie camp Friday and Saturday, and it won't be overly complex stuff or anything. Keep in mind, the players' jersey numbers won't necessarily be permanent. With 90-man rosters, the rookies will have the lowest priority when picking their numbers. It's often the case that players change their numbers at the conclusion of training camp when about three dozen players get released.

20. Patriots tight end Daniel Fells got a lot of guidance from former Pats tight end Alge Crumpler while the two were together in Atlanta. While speaking of Crumpler's value as a leader, Fells said something timely, at least in terms of what rookies might be thinking as they get ready to report to their NFL facilities. It's a peek inside their minds as they prepare for one of the biggest challenges of their playing careers.

"Coming in as a rookie, you don't really know what to expect," Fells said. "I went into Atlanta not knowing if guys were going to try to sabotage you because you're competing. That's what it's all about. You're competing for a job, for the same position, and so you don't really know if you can trust anybody. But Alge welcomed everybody with open arms."

Have a question for Jeff Howe? Send it to him via Twitter at @jeffphowe or send it here. He will pick a few questions to answer every week for his mailbag.

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