Twelve seasons in the NFL is enough. Enough time to experience the highs, the lows, the good times and the … bad. Patten had been through it all. It was the classic story of a kid out of nowhere making his dream come true.
"Now you reflect on it and say, ‘Hey, the career wasn't that bad'," Patten said. "Not bad for a kid, undersized out of Columbia, South Carolina, small 1AA school, undrafted, working in a coffee bean factory, electricians work, landscaper. Who would have thought, 15 years later, 12 years in the National Football League, three championships, so many memories."
New England Patriots wide receiver David Patten scores on a 25-yard reception from Patriots quarterback Tom Brady during the third quarter against the Indianapolis Colts in Foxboro, Mass. Thursday, Sept. 9, 2004. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)
Less than three months into his second stint with the Patriots, Patten realized that although his body could still play, his mind wasn't into it. And without his heart and soul being into the season, it was time to hang up the cleats.
"Once you begin to start to think about it mentally and you're not 100 percent in it mentally-wise, it's tough to play this game," Paten said in response to why he was retiring. "I always felt like when I got to that point, it would just be in my best interest to walk away."
For Patten, the decision to retire didn't come lightly, and wasn't as spur of the moment as it might seem. He had thought about it when he was injured last season in Cleveland and he had to admit, that it wasn't the first time. A cynic would have said Patten saw it coming by sizing up the competition for roles in the Patriots offense, or perhaps it was a bad practice, or two. Not so Patten claimed.
"There was no particular play. I actually had a really good practice," Patten said of his on-field experience – something Belichick also confirmed. "When you lose it mentally, you can't play at this level. … I always felt like whenever I got to that point where I couldn't go out there day in and day out consistently at a high level, it was time to walk away."
As for the cynics, Patten said he was bothered that they may claim they were right – that he wanted to retire as a Patriot – but that wasn't the thinking when Patten asked Belichick for chance to return to the team.
After praising Patten's ability, stating he could still play if he wanted to, Belichick spoke of Patten's work ethic as perhaps one of the most impressive characteristic's the diminutive wideout possessed.
"David came here and has really been a outstanding player for this organization," Belichick said as he reflected on what Patten has done for the team. "One of the things I would say about David [is] we have a lot of players that work hard, but I think David sets the pace for work ethic."
Belichick continued to heap praise upon Patten when recounting his accomplishments. "He's got a great attitude, a very professional attitude and his work ethic, his toughness and of course his speed and receiving ability – those are the things that kept him in the league and made him the outstanding player that he was."
The Patriots may have other veteran leadership in the receiving corps with Randy Moss, Wes Welker and Tory Holt in the fold, but it's their young group of wideouts who will need to step up to fill Patten's shoes. Patten says he feels comfortable with where some of the youngsters are headed. He also believes that if they heed Belichick's advice to become hard workers, they'll be fine.
"With the work ethic that those guys have exhibited over the past couple months that I've worked with them, I believe that the sky is the limit for them," Patten said in reference to the potential of Brandon Tate, Julian Edelman and Taylor Price. "It will just come down to maintaining the proper attitude and it will happen."
Tom Brady didn't get a chance to speak with Patten before the wideout made his decision and that was by design according to Patten.
"That was part of the reason why I didn't talk to him prior to me making this decision because I kind of thought that he would try to talk me out of it," Patten admitted. "He can be pretty persuasive when he wants to"
Patten did say Brady tried to talk him out of it after the decision was made, but Patten's mind was already made up.
During an interview with Sirius NFL Radio, Brady reiterated his thoughts on Patten to Pat Kirwan and Tim Ryan. Brady told the hosts of Moving the Chains that he agreed with Patten's choice to keep the decision private before Brady could talk him out of retiring.
Brady went on to applaud Patten not only as a football player, but as a person. "He's one of my favorite players I've ever played with," Brady said. "He's a really incredible person. Really high character, and a really good person. He can still play, there's no doubt about it. I wanted to make sure he still knew that."
"He'll be missed. I've known him for a long time. He's a great guy to have around... It's much more than just playing football."
For now, Patten says he has enough on his plate to keep him busy. He's an ordained minister and has a number of businesses to keep an eye on.
Patten finished his career with 324 receptions for 4,715 yards, 24 TDs. He also passed for a touchdown and returned a kick for a TD. In 12 seasons Patten played for five teams; New York Giants, Cleveland Browns, Patriots, Washington Redskins and the New Orleans Saints.
Jon Scott has covered the NFL the past ten seasons. A member of the Pro Football Writers of America, Jon's articles have appeared on the pages of The OBR Magazine, Warpaint Illustrated, TFY Draft Preview, Scout.com and FoxSports.com's Fantasy Guides. He has also covered the league for TheInsiders, Scout.com, CSNNE.com and FOXSports.com You can follow Jon via twitter @JScottNFL.