Patriots guard Stephen Neal was one of the more remarkable stories in recent memory. He’s a great example of patience and persistence by a player and organization.
Consider that Neal signed as a rookie free agent in New England in 2001. A world class wrestler in college, Neal played in all of one game until 2004, when he became a consistent mauler on a Super Bowl champion team.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick released a statement on Neal Thursday.
“They don’t come any better than Steve Neal. Belichick said. “In terms of improvement and development as a player, Steve may have accomplished more than any player I have ever been around. His toughness, intelligence and competitiveness were at rare levels and all contributed to him going from being a champion in an individual sport to being an integral part of championship teams.
“I congratulate Steve for an incredible career and thank him for everything he did for me personally, our team and organization.”
Neal said Thursday that his shoulder injuries made it too painful to continue to play football after 10 NFL seasons.