When trying to put in perspective the recently concluded career of Patriots left tackle Matt Light, there’s really only one place to go: to the players he went against.
And when you look at Light’s 11 years in the NFL, there are two players who have the most insight into how good he truly was. Both were mentioned by Light during his retirement ceremony as the toughest players he went against.
From 2001-11, Dolphins end Jason Taylor ranked first in the NFL with 108.5 sacks. Colts end Dwight Freeney, despite not debuting until 2002, is fourth with 102.5.
During that period in the NFL, not many attacked the quarterback like Taylor and Freeney. They just might be headed to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
And both say that Light deserves to be considered for the Hall of Fame as well.
“Yes, I would,’’ Taylor said. “The way he did it, and as effectively as he did it for as many years as he did it - and winning, which always helps - having played against him for too many years, he would be a guy that I would definitely say would deserve mention and a look at it, for sure.’’
Freeney was a little more resolute.
“Yes, absolutely,’’ he said. “You have to look at what the man has done for his organization and how many championships they’ve won. If you turn on the film and you watch Matt Light, you don’t really see guys beating that guy consistently at all.
“Because of some of the other guys, you kind of overlook Matt, and people shouldn’t. You think of [Tom] Brady when you think of the Patriots. But you don’t think of Matt Light. You thought of Peyton [Manning], but you never thought of Tarik Glenn. It just is what it is, unfortunately.
“But he’s one of the best in this era, definitely. I think he’s definitely a great player and the Patriots are going to miss him.’’
When you talk about the top left tackles in this era, the list goes something like this: Jonathan Ogden (Ravens), Walter Jones (Seahawks), Orlando Pace (Rams). Then Light is in a group with Chris Samuels (Redskins), Flozell Adams (Cowboys), and Glenn (Colts).
Ogden, Pace, and Glenn are the only ones besides Light with Super Bowl rings, and they each have one. Light has three and is one of just five players at any position to start five Super Bowls.
Ogden, the 6-foot-9-inch, 345-pounder who is arguably the second-best left tackle of all-time behind ex-Bengal Anthony Munoz, played at such a high level for most of his career that Light was forced into the background until Ogden’s final season of 2007, when Light went to the Pro Bowl and was voted first-team All Pro.
Of the left tackles Freeney went against on a regular basis, he said, Light was the best because of his consistency.
“Matt Light is probably the hardest-working offensive tackle. He’s probably the toughest competitor,’’ Freeney said. “Day in and day out, he may not be the tallest guy, he may not be the fastest guy, but I know when I play him, I have to make sure I’ve got my A game because Matt is the most consistent guy out there and you know what you’re going to get from him and he’s one of the best.
“You look at him and you think, ‘This should be an easy game.’ You figure, he’s not 6-5 and not 350 pounds. But when you face him, that heart and that intensity and that consistency, he stands out from those standpoints.
“He didn’t get a lot of glory or accolades for what he’s done, but if he didn’t play in the era with the Ogdens and Walter Jones and those guys, I think Matt is knocking on those doors.’’
As he stepped away from the game, Light said that “without a doubt’’ Freeney was the best player he faced.
“He’s a guy that I had a lot of respect for,’’ Light said. “It’s not just the way he plays the game, it’s how many different ways he can make you look silly out there, and there are plenty.’’
Taylor was second for Light.
“Boy, he did not go away for my entire career, pretty much,’’ Light said. “He was a menace from day one to the end.’’
Taylor laughed when he heard those words.
“I’ll take that as a compliment, put it that way,’’ he said. “I know I was a pain in his butt, and I was trying to be, and he was always a pain in my butt, too, trust me. He and that whole offensive line.
“We had some good battles over the years. He always competed. I’m not sure how much he liked me, playing against me. I’ve heard a few things from former teammates of his about how much he’d get himself worked up to play against me.
“But when you’re in the division, you’re playing somebody twice a year for years on end, you develop, at least I did, that healthy respect. But it’s also that little rivalry and wanting to get the best of each other.’’
Taylor said it was the little things that most don’t notice that made Light the player he was.
“There were things that they did offensively, whether it be with the protections or with the quarterback and the way Tom would get rid of the football and things like that, that could frustrate you,’’ Taylor said. “And they try to bait you into things, whether it be crashing into the inside move or trying to cut you to get you down for the quick slant.
“Those are the things I thought Matt did a good job of trying to disguise and mixing it up, not always giving you the same look.’’
Time to get charged up
It’s not a big secret that the Chargers have been one of the slowest-starting teams and have underachieved with a lot of talent in a weak division since Norv Turner was named coach in 2007.
They have started 1-3, 3-5, 2-3, 2-5, and 4-7 in Turner’s five seasons. They rebounded to make the postseason the first three years but have missed the past two.
Conventional wisdom would say that now that Peyton Manning is in the division, with Denver, the Chargers will have a greater sense of urgency early in the season.
Turner doesn’t like conventional wisdom.
“You kind of hit a nerve with me because I think we have a great sense of urgency from the get-go,’’ Turner said at the league meetings. “We’ve had some things that have kept us from being as good as we’re capable of being, and No. 1, we’ve identified those things. No. 2, we’ve made a big push on getting young guys so we can stay healthier through an entire season.’’
Turner also didn’t agree that the AFC West has been one of the weaker divisions. At least not now.
“Obviously, having Peyton in the division along with Carson Palmer [Raiders] and Kansas City adding Matt Cassel, our division has increased the talent at quarterback,’’ he said. “Two or three years ago, Philip Rivers [Chargers] was probably the most identifiable quarterback and the best quarterback in the division and the other teams were kind of struggling to get that.
“Now you look at our division and it will add to the strength of our division because all four teams have outstanding quarterbacks.’’
Don’t tell Turner, but now that the division is rebounding, his team would be much better served by playing in September the way it does in December. That, or he could miss the playoffs again.
Job reviews by former bosses
Some leftover notes from some former coaches of players the Patriots signed in free agency. Nobody is going to give a negative report or admit that the Patriots stole a player they wanted to keep, but sometimes you can glean a few things from their comments.
Bengals coach Marvin Lewis was curious about the decision of defensive end Jonathan Fanene to sign, considering Foxborough’s proximity to Boston.
Fanene, said Lewis, is “very small-town. I don’t represent him. Sometimes those guys [agents] should think about that.
“Jon is a very hard-working guy. Prior to his time at Utah, he hadn’t played a lot of football. So it was all new to him. So going to a new team, it’s going to be interesting.
“He’s very hard on himself. He wants to do everything right. He’s very conscientious.
“Last year, because of the lockout, he was an unsigned player, he didn’t hit camp quite ready to go. We had to get Jon in shape and get him going, and he did that.
“He had a baby in late July. So he had a lot of things going on in his life last year, and once we got him signed, it took him a little bit of time.’’
Lewis thinks Fanene will fit well in the Patriots’ two-gap system.
“Jon’s been a good inside rusher because of his effort and energy,’’ Lewis said. “He’s strong. He’ll do well in the New England scheme of playing two-gap.
“He has not done a lot of that. That will be a little different for him. I don’t know what they’re going to ask him to do, but he’ll have to learn to do that a little bit. But he’ll have the strength and ability to do it, yes.’’
The Cowboys were hoping to retain fullback Tony Fiammetta, but he found a better opportunity with the Patriots after Dallas signed Lawrence Vickers.
“We really liked Tony Fiammetta,’’ said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. “He was a guy drafted out of Syracuse by Carolina, had a good career there. Had some injury issues with Carolina. We picked him up.
“We have a base in our offense of being a two-back team and we felt like he was a really good candidate for that. As you know, there are very few true old-time fullbacks that come out of the draft every year because of the offenses that many of these colleges are running.
“We felt like Tony was one of those guys and did a really nice job for us last year when he was healthy. He missed a number of games throughout our season. When he was playing, we felt really good about what he did.
“He’s a physical guy, a natural fullback, he has a good feel for seeking guys out and blocking them and did a good job for us in the run and pass game. He missed a bulk in the middle and then came back at the end of the year. It seemed like he was fine from that.’’
Chargers coach Norv Turner raved about safety Steve Gregory.
“He’s an outstanding player,’’ Turner said. “He’s a very competitive guy. Good coverage skills, good run defender. He’s just a pro. He’s just a guy that is going to be there and show up and be prepared to play every week.’’
New Raiders coach Dennis Allen watched film of defensive end Trevor Scott before deciding not to re-sign him.
“I think when you go back and you look at Trevor a couple of years ago, he really had a lot of production, was a really good player,’’ Allen said. “Last year, coming off the knee injury, didn’t play as much.
“I think he’s a solid football player. And really, when you look at your team, you’re going to build your team with a bunch of players like that.’’
1. The NFL is free to impose whatever punishment it deems fit when it comes to the Saints’ bounty scandal. But once that punishment is doled out, it needs to present the evidence in its entirety, not only to the players involved but also the public. The NFL may be a business, but it’s also a public trust. Roger Goodell needs to keep that in mind and come clean.
2. I don’t, however, buy the contention by many involved that since they haven’t seen proof that money changed hands, the bounty system didn’t exist and people shouldn’t be penalized. That’s bull. That it existed in any form - and we know that it did - is a punishable offense for all involved, whether or not anybody was actually paid.
3. A lot was made last year after the lockout about the rash of Achilles’ tendon injuries. They were blamed on the layoff. Well, with both Terrell Suggs and Da’Quan Bowers tearing theirs in early May this year, we’ll have to find another reason. It would help if the NFL Players Association got off the sidelines and agreed to an HGH test to take at least one possibility - that players are getting too big thanks to performance-enhancing drugs - out of the equation.
4. It’s really a shame that some teams, like the Patriots, don’t open up their rookie practices to fans. It’s basically an orientation, and the plays are so basic that it’s not as if they’d be giving away state secrets.
5. If the Jets knew what was good for them, they’d shut up and never say anything about the Patriots until they, you know, win the division. Darrelle Revis thinks Bill Belichick and Tom Brady don’t show them enough respect. Boo hoo. Respect isn’t given, it’s earned. Try that step first.
The Old Spice Wes Welker Football Clinic is May 19-20 at Bishop Fenwick High in Peabody. It’s open to boys and girls ages 7-14 and costs $199. The clinic benefits the Wes Welker Foundation. Go to procamps.com for more information . . . Patriots Kyle Love, Kyle Arrington, and Devin McCourty will host a Texas Hold ’Em fund-raiser to benefit the Life is good Kids Foundation at Mr. Sid in Newton Thursday at 7 p.m. Call (617) 969-4540 or go to mrsid.com for more information . . . Left at least one player out of the list of locals trying to make NFL teams this month. Former Dartmouth running back Nick Schwieger, a Norton native, signed with the Rams as an undrafted free agent. The 5-10, 210-pound former star at Bishop Feehan ranked second in the FCS in rushing average (131.0 yards per game), led the Ivy League in all-purpose yardage (1,429), and posted eight 100-yard games, one of just five Ivy players to do so in one season . . . Guard Robert Gallery, one of the newest Patriots, said he already heard from Malden native Breno Giacomini. The two were offensive line teammates with the Seahawks last season. “I like Breno, he’s Boston through and through,’’ said Gallery. “He actually texted me when I signed here, saying that I couldn’t have ended up in a better spot because he’s all Boston. It was fun playing with him. He’s got a good future. He came in last year and did a lot of great things. He comes to work, so I’m sure he’ll do great.’’ . . . Wanted to wish my mother, Susan, a very special Mother’s Day. She was at every game I had as a kid, no matter the sport, rain or shine, and never once complained about shuttling her three active sons.Greg A. Bedard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @gregabedard. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.