Last Man Standing
Patriots tackle Matt Light is apparently ready to announce his retirement. As NFL Network's Albert Breer noted on Twitter, this probably leaves Tom Brady as the last player on the Patriots from the 2001 Super Bowl champions. Kevin Faulk was on the team last year, but he's a free agent and very unlikely to be re-signed.
This got me thinking: Is there something unique about a Super Bowl champion having only one player left after 11 years? So I went to look at the 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It turns out that Ronde Barber is the only member of that team still in Tampa Bay. In fact, Barber is the only member of the 2002 Bucs who is still in the league at all, whereas there are four 2001 Patriots still in the league (Brady, Lonnie Paxton, Richard Seymour, and Adam Vinatieri), and five if you count Faulk.
So Brady's position isn't unique, but it is interesting. I thought it would be fun to go back and see who was the last man standing from a string of Super Bowl champions. Do you know the last member of the 1999 Rams in the league? Can you name the last member of the 1994 49ers to retire? Who are the two players still left in the league from the 2000 Ravens offense? Read on to see if you know the answers.
1994 49ers: The last man standing from the 1994 champs was Bryant Young, who retired in 2007 after spending his entire career in San Francisco.
1995 Cowboys: Larry Allen was a rookie in 1994, so he doesn't count for the 1993 Cowboys, but he was the last of the Super Bowl Cowboys to go. His final year in Dallas was 2005, and his final year in the NFL was 2007.
1996 Packers: Duh.
1997 Broncos: Jason Elam and Tom Nalen both lasted until 2007 in Denver. At that point Nalen retired and Elam went on to Atlanta. However, Elam wasn't the last man standing from the 1997 Broncos. That honor goes to Trevor Pryce, who played through 2010, while Elam retired after 2009.
1998 Broncos: The same as the 1997 Broncos, with the addition of Matt Lepsis, who was a rookie in 1998, spent his whole career in Denver, and retired the same year as Nalen.
1999 Rams: This is the earliest Super Bowl champion to have a player still active in the NFL, although not in St. Louis. London Fletcher is the last of the Cinderella Rams to play in the league. Leonard Little, who retired after 2009, was the last of the 1999 Rams in St. Louis.
2000 Ravens: Ray Lewis, you know. However, two guys who were way down near the bottom of the offensive depth chart are still in the league after a dozen years, on other teams: Chris Redman and Brandon Stokley.
2001 Patriots: As noted above, the last Patriots are Brady, Paxton, Seymour, and Vinatieri.
2002 Bucs: Ronde Barber
2003 Patriots: At this point, we have a team with a lot of players left in the league, especially since the Patriots had very strong drafts in 2002-2003. Daniel Graham, Deion Branch, Dan Koppen, Vince Wilfork, and Asante Samuel are among the players from this team still active, along with the players listed in the 2001 Patriots section.