The ex-Pat breaks down what happened last week and what could happen in NOLA.
(Photo by Ronald C. Modra/Getty)
Tell us about the AFC Championship last week. You seem to have made peace with your retirement, but being an honorary captain and being on the sidelines, did a big part of you want to be on the field?
Yeah, it was interesting. You get a different perspective when you’re a fan and not the person actually playing in the game. And being down there Sunday, it was bittersweet. I mean, there was a part of me that just couldn’t believe I was serving in that capacity, and there was another part of me that couldn’t believe I was one of those people standing on the sideline that I always frowned at when I came out of the tunnel. You know, they were always in my way when I’m trying to warm up, having a great time, high-fiving you - they probably had a few wobbly pops upstairs - and so it was definitely different to be on the field and there was definitely that old feeling that I used to get preparing for a game and knowing what that was like and how much is at stake.
What do you think the deciding factors were in the game? Do you think it’s a different outcome if Gronk and Talib are on the field for the whole game?
Oh, I definitely think it’s a different outcome if those two guys are there and able to go out there and make better plays. I really did feel like one sideline had a lot of energy, one sideline was amped up, and that’s the Ravens. They came in there with that swagger they bring into every contest, especially being on the road, trying to prove something each and every snap. I just felt as though the energy level on our sideline and with the guys in New England – I mean, I know they’re focused and I know that they all got their job to do, and trust me I’ve been in that mode, I’ve been there, I know what it’s like - but they just didn’t seem to have that energy that you really want to have, especially during the playoffs. I think there are a lot of other factors, too. Turnovers, namely the [Stevan] Ridley fumble. That was a tough play to watch, obviously, concerning what happened to him. But things like that: penalties, turnovers, lack of execution in the red zone. Those are the things that kill you week-in and week-out, and they’re definitely going to end your chances come playoff time.
Who do you like in two weeks?
Oh man, I don’t know. It’ll be fun watching with the storylines for this year‘s Super Bowl. It doesn’t get any better. It’s classic in so many ways. You have two very physical teams. I love the way San Francisco plays up front. I got to like Justin Smith. This is 12 years in the NFL for him. That’s 12 years of grinding it out, being really an undersized guy playing the inside but also with the ability to go outside. And he played on some horrible teams for most of his career - this is a shot for him to go out there and win it all. And I know that he is the heart and soul of that defense, but there have been a lot of other really good players all the way around that are going to make it really exciting. It’ll be interesting to see what they can do against that Ravens' front five; they’re just large human beings.
Defense won both teams their conference game; does that win the big one?
Not just defense. If they give [Joe] Flacco enough time back there, he’s going to hurt you and he has the big play receivers. And [Colin] Kaepernick is just as dynamic as a guy has ever been; he throws the ball like a laser and he’s able to extend so many plays with his feet. He’s got a good cast around him, but he’s going against a very veteran team in the Ravens and their style of defense. And you’ve got two brothers going at it who know each other about as good as anybody. It’s like in the movie The Princess Bride. When they have the two guys and they’re setting the table and they put iocane powder in one of the wine glasses and he goes through the “maybe it’s in your glass?” over and over. That’s what it’s going to be for these two brothers playing each other. The mental game that they’re going to have that nobody else will really know is just like that scene in the movie.
So you think coaching is what’s going to finish it off?
Coaching is a big part of any game, but the coaching here will be especially interesting to watch. I don’t know if that’s going to be what gives one team the edge or not, but it’ll definitely be highly creative. It’s going to be like Bill [Belichick], you know, going over every single thing that the opposing coaching staff would do. “This defensive coordinator did this in 1987,” and “We got to be careful because this defensive line coach is prone to doing this.” Well, these guys know each other from day one, so who’s going to out-fake who? That’s going to be cool to watch. And of course, it’ll come down to the players making plays like it always does.
About Bill, is he exactly how he seems? A meticulous football mind, but probably not too much of a sense of humor?
He’s predominately business and it’s what he likes, what he enjoys. Some of us like to go out and play golf and some of us like to study plays relentlessly from around the league during the offseason. He’s just got it in him to do more than most people would ever think of doing, and he can process it all and he can keep it organized in his mind. He’s very interesting on that end. But it might take you a while to realize that he has a sense of humor, but he’s actually got a pretty good one and he likes to have fun when time permits. It’s just usually not permitted very often.
You would say on the field that your philosophy was, it’s better to be 8 out of 10 all the time than 10 out of 10 sometimes. Do you still believe that?
Yeah, the truth of the matter is that you can’t. It’s just never going to happen. When Michael Oher came out I think the story was that he never gave up a sack in college or something along those lines. But the truth of the matter is, there’s just no way that would carry into the league, because the competition is too good and you got to be humble to play that position. The guys are arrogant that think they’ve got all the answers. They never last. They never make it. You got to be able to continuously want to improve. And not think that you have the answers. And I’ll tell you this much, playing in New England is very, very easy, because they remind you just how often you don’t have the answers. Bill’s very good at that.
I would assume so. You live with Crohn’s disease; how did you manage it during your career?
I’ll tell you, it was difficult. I was officially diagnosed in 2001, which was my rookie year here in New England. It was a very difficult time; obviously. I’m still trying to educate myself best as to what Crohn’s is and how it affects you. For me, I really kind of dealt with it in silence throughout my career. I didn’t want that to be the storyline. “This Matt Light guy suffers from Crohn’s and the reason he had a bad game was because of the Crohn’s,” or anything of that nature. So I basically changed my diet, and gathered as much information as I could, but I hadn’t taken any type of medication throughout my time playing. I suffered too; had some big flare ups and had major surgery while I was actually playing the game.
Has it been easier to manage since you retired?
You know, it’s easier to manage because I have the ability to take control of what’s been a major issue with me through the medical treatment options that are out there. I consulted with my gastroenterologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and really put together the plan of attack. I began the [taking the drug] Remicade about seven months ago now, and I got my symptoms under control and I’m doing great at this point. I share this a lot; I get a million emails from people. They seem to come in all the time and they all want to know what the magical answer is, and I tell them all the same thing: there’s not one thing that works for everybody. Everybody’s fight is different, but I always encourage them to find a doctor in their area that they can work with, and how important it is to educate themselves and then ultimately take advantage of the resources that are out there. The bottom line is that I played 11 seasons under a pretty tough organization that didn’t take any shortcuts, while having a lot of success, and I did it all battling a disease like Crohn’s. I think that’s a good thing that gives a lot of encouragement.
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The ex-Pat breaks down what happened last week and what could happen in NOLA.