Light feels well enough to practice for Super Bowl

HOWARD ULMAN AP Sports Writer Published:

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Matt Light has been protecting Tom Brady for 11 years and three Super Bowl championships. He's not about to let a little sickness keep him from trying for a fourth.

The left tackle participated fully in practice Wednesday for the first time since the New England Patriots arrived in Indianapolis on Sunday evening for the title game against the New York Giants.

"I'm feeling better," Light said. "I was a little under the weather. We are ready to rock-and-roll for Sunday."

And fight?

Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora and Light got into a scrape in the regular-season finale in 2007 and again in the eighth game this season.

"This is maybe my second or third time playing against Matt Light," Umenyiora said. "There is no hatred there. Some of the things he has done, I wish he wouldn't have, but at the end of the day, we're both professionals and he seems to be a good guy."

Light has had plenty of time to learn the tricks of the tackle trade since the Patriots drafted him in 2001 in the first round out of Purdue, not far from the Super Bowl site.

Play to the whistle and beyond. Shove and scratch in a pile. Deliver a forearm to the back while on the ground.

All are tactics offensive linemen might use on players they're trying to block.

Light has faced Umenyiora three times, including a 17-14 Giants win in the Super Bowl four years ago, and may have developed a mini-rivalry with him.

"Can you have an individual rivalry?" Light said. "I thought rivalries were between teams in general. But I'm ready to go out there and play whatever game I have to play. We'll have fun doing it. I'm not sure that comes at a personal level."

The one person he's most concerned about is Brady, the Patriots greatest hope of success.

Light has done an outstanding job protecting his quarterback's blind side throughout their careers. Those two and running back Kevin Faulk are the only current Patriots with four Super Bowl appearances and three championships.

"It's hard to believe that in one career you can go to this thing five times," Light said. "It never gets old and is always a lot of fun. To have guys that have been with you the whole time is something you never forget."

After watching Light excel for 11 seasons, coach Bill Belichick can still appreciate his steadiness.

"Matt has been a real solid guy for us at left tackle since we drafted him in 2001," Belichick said. "He's gone up against a lot of great players playing on that left side. He's battled them. He's tough, and he's smart. He has real good technique, footwork and hand placement."

For seven seasons, guard Logan Mankins has been lining up next to Light. Coordinating their blocking is second nature to them.

And now that Light is healthy enough to practice, they should keep doing that on Sunday.

"The good part is he was sick a week before the game," Mankins said. "He's got all week to recover and feel the best that he can. He had those two days off to rest. We'll give him all the time he needs so that he's at full strength on Sunday."

Before Wednesday, Light last practiced on Friday. The Patriots held meetings and film sessions on Tuesday but didn't practice. There are two more practices before a walkthrough on Saturday.

"Every guy upfront has a job to do," Light said. "Keeping (Brady) upright is a big part of that."

Even if it might mean forsaking good sportsmanship.

"He just does all that extra pushing and tries to hit you over the pile and stuff like that," Umenyiora said. "At the end of the day, I'm not paying any attention to that anymore. We're just going to go out and play and that's just going to be the end of it."

His illness kept Light from media day Tuesday, but Umenyiora passed on some good -- if not entirely sincere -- wishes.

"Yeah, 'Matt Light, please get well soon. I hope to see you on Sunday. You are one of my greatest friends.' "

Light acted surprised.

"He said that?" the recovering Patriot said. "Wow. I'm feeling better."

Umenyiora wasn't feeling so good Wednesday, but not because he was sick. He was fined $20,000 by the NFL for missing a mandatory morning media session, saying later that he misunderstood the schedule.

No doubt, Light and Umenyiora will both show up Sunday.