The 33-year-old lineman was a second-round draft pick out of Purdue in 2001. He went on to start 153 of 155 games for New England, helping the Patriots win five AFC championships and Super Bowls XXVI, XXXVIII and XXXIX. He was named to the Pro Bowl four times.
Patriots Coach Bill Belichick lauded Light for his dependability and consistency. The coach said it was a pleasure to coach Light despite a "love-hate relationship" during which "we certainly had our ups and downs."
Belichick drew laughs when he told of his wrong-headed decision to try to move his newly drafted rookie from left tackle to right tackle. But he noted Light went from 19 mental errors his rookie season to just two this past season.
Light, he said, "was a stalwart for us on the field and off the field."
Belichick also called Light "the ultimate prankster," who was often blamed for high jinks in which he played no part.
"Dead animals in people's lockers or cars, whatever it was, the finger was pointed first at Matt," Belichick said. "He was always the prime suspect even when it wasn't him."