FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — It wouldn’t be unreasonable for Matt Light to expect Super Bowl XLVI to be a little bit easier in terms of dealing with the distractions that come with the big event.
But this is a homecoming of sorts for the Greenville, Ohio native and Purdue alum, and the potential for distractions is about 2,000 times what they were in previous Super Bowl sites New Orleans, Houston, Jacksonille and Glendale, Arizona.
“I live an hour-and-a-half away from Indy, so I probably have about 2,000 people in my hometown that probably would love to be there that I think are family members, but I’m not 100 percent sure,” he said.
Kidding aside, Light said his “relatives” have been very understanding that he can’t accommodate everyone. It probably helps that he has had four other Super Bowls to make a lot of people happy.
After 11 years and four Super Bowls, Light’s NFL career has come virtually full circle.
He has been the cornerstone of New England’s offensive line since his rookie year in 2001, when he was the starting left tackle on the first of three Super Bowl winners. Light, quarterback Tom Brady and running back Kevin Faulk are the only players remaining from Super Bowl XXXVI.
But when stories are written about New England’s dynasty, Light’s name is never included with Brady’s and coach Bill Belichick.
Belichick admitted Light’s contributions can be easily overlooked.
“I don’t want to say (you) take it for granted, but when you don’t have a lot of problems, you kind of assume that it’s solid,” Belichick said.
Matt’s had a terrific career,” he added. “He’s been a rock for us there for a long time, both physically and mentally.”
Light has been named to three Pro Bowls while protecting Brady’s blind side. The quarterback admitted he was concerned when Light became a free agent after last season, and when the Patriots drafted tackle Nate Solder in the first round of the draft, it looked like the 33-year-old Light’s days in New England may be numbered.
But Brady was relieved when the Patriots signed Light to a reported two-year deal after the lockout ended.
“He has been a staple for this team in a lot of huge wins. He is a very dependable, consistent, tough, disciplined player,” Brady said. “I think he has a ton of real strong points. That left tackle position is so important to the passing game to protect the backside of the quarterback and there’s nobody I’d rather have back there than Matt.”
Brady’s confidence in Light will be a factor in Super Bowl XLVI. The Patriots have given up just one sack in two playoff games, but Light knows the New York Giants pass rush is a whole new challenge, particularly the defensive line.
“That’s the heart and soul of that defense and you see how they play the game and the impact they have,” said Light. “They can get it done rushing four. They can get it done rushing three in some cases. We’ve got a lot of film study to do, a lot of practice and a lot of preparation and then we’ve got to go out there and execute in a tough environment.”
Light’s environment is tougher than most at left tackle. Often matched up against the opposition’s best pass rusher, he is on an island, noticed only when he doesn’t get the job done.
“The thing about the tackle position is there’s a lot less help for those guys and there’s a lot more space to defend than there is for the inside players,” Belichick said. “I don’t want to say it’s more important; it’s just different. It’s just a different type of challenge that a tackle faces than a guy in the interior of the line faces.”
Light doesn’t portray the pressure of his job in his easy-going demeanor. If the pressure of a demanding home town was starting to get on his nerves, you wouldn’t know that, either.
The same goes for the pressure of playing in a Super Bowl. But Light has the resume to show why he’ll be able to block out all of the hoopla before he has to actually block the Giants.
“Obviously, you have a little bit more of an understanding of what to expect and what the whole week’s like and the media day and all that good stuff,” he said. “Yeah, it will be a little easier.”