There was some immediate speculation that Patten's signing earlier this year had been just so he could retire a Patriot, a la Nomar with the Red Sox. But even in an un-capped year, the Patriots are not given to making sentimental moves like that. The decision seemed to come upon Patten suddenly:
Some kind of felt that I just came and signed back with the team just to retire, but that was no way any part of my thought process. I honestly felt like I could still play this game and play it at a high level. I felt like the competitive, spirited nature was still here, but over the course of the last two days, over the course of the break away from the team, there was a lot of reflection, and there was a lot of contemplation and it just felt like it was time. It just hit me yesterday. As I stated earlier, camp was going really well. I was still able to go out there and be competitive and operate at a high level, but you know, I l believe once you get to the point in your career where it’s multiple years – it would have been my 13th year – 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. I always felt like when I got to that point, it would just be in my best interest to walk away.
Getting back to that video -- it's only partial, but it contains footage of Patten's incredible game in October of 2001 against the Colts, in which he became the first Patriot ever to throw, rush and catch for a touchdown in a single game, and only the 6th in NFL history to do so. One Facebook follower of the Patriots, when asked to name their favorite memory of Patten, immediately cited the play above -- "Brady faking the deep pass and then hitting Patten streaking up the sidelines for an 80-yard touchdown." What I remembered first was the throw for a touchdown on a flea-flicker play. Not something you see every day, even with the trick plays that were a signature of Charlie Weis's offenses.
The highlights most will cite for Patten will be his touchdown catches in Super Bowl XXXVI (I can still remember Gil Santos yelling with that tone of overjoyed incredulity that he struck throughout that miraculous Super Bowl game, "TOUCHDOWN, DAVID PATTEN!"), and his leaping catch of an 11-yard touchdown pass from Drew Bledsoe the same year in the AFC Championship game against the Steelers. That AFC Championship catch was doubly memorable, as the one contribution Bledsoe would make in that Cinderella playoff run, as well as a highlight of Patten's career.
Patten was never a big 'personality' guy -- most of us have memorable plays but not memorable quotes from him. Somewhat undersized by NFL standards, less than outspoken and the author of key flashes of brilliance -- Patten epitomizes the Patriot Way player of the early aughts. It's hard to say Patten specifically will be missed by Patriots fans, when he hadn't officially rejoined the Patriots on game day, and had played for the Saints the last few seasons, but we surely do miss those teams.