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Matt Light reveals long battle with Crohn's disease


The retirement ceremony for newly retired New England Patriots left tackle Matt Light reflected the man well. It was full of laughter.

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After a lot of jokes and heartfelt tributes from Robert Kraft and Bill Belichick, Light talked about his career, his teammates, and took question. He looked like a man truly grateful to walk away from the game on his own terms. As Ian Rapoport pointed, Light appears to be a man that won't look back.

After the session was over, when the cameras were gone, Light revealed a stunner to longtime Patriots beat writer Mike Reiss, now of Light quietly suffered from Crohn's disease for his entire NFL career. He had a near-death experience after surgery in 2004.

First diagnosed in 2001, Light tried to cope with Crohn's disease without surgery as long as he could.

"I basically got to the point, over the 3-4 years of being diagnosed with Crohn's, that I couldn't handle the pain anymore," Light told Reiss. "The pain became so difficult that in the offseason it just paralyzed me. I'd hit the ground. You can't wake up. You can't sit down. You can't do anything without this becoming a problem."

Crohn's is a bowel disease that causes inflammation in the digestive system. Light required 13 inches of his intestines removed in the summer 2004, but he wound up fighting for his life after post-surgery complications. He lost 55 pounds and didn't eat for a month.

"It was one of the darkest periods in my life," Light said about a month-long hospital stay.

Light eventually recovered and made it back to the team late in the 2004 training camp. He started and won his third Super Bowl later that season and never revealed his disease publicly. Crohn's disease is not why Light finally retired on Monday, but he says it was a factor.

"It's not to tell the story as 'woe is me' -- I could care less about that -- but when you go through something like that and it's that wild of a time … I always wanted to finish the game of football and go out on my terms and the way I wanted to do it," Light said.

Light did just that, with a terrific 2011 season and Super Bowl effort. I saw Light just after the game, and it looked like he didn't have a care in the world. While the rest of the Patriots were morose, Light seemed appreciative of the moment. It makes more sense now: Light knew he was moving on and soaked up the moment.

The disease makes it difficult to keep weight on, and Light will now feel more comfortable taking medication more freely to treat it. Light explained why he didn't say anything about the disease before.

"That was part of my journey, and that's something I've never shared. I didn't want anybody looking at me and saying, 'That guy missed that block because he probably had a bad Crohn's day.'"

Only five players in NFL history have started five Super Bowls. It is truly remarkable that Matt Light is one of them.


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