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Troy Brown, Stephen Neal: Back in Blue

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Wide receiver Troy Brown and offensive lineman Stephen Neal re-signed with the New England Patriots on Friday.

Brown, 34, shores up a receiving corps depleted by free agency, joining Deion Branch, Bethel Johnson and recently acquired, former San Deigo Charger Reche Caldwell. Neal, 28, has been a key, consistent cog on an offensive line ravaged by injuries. Terms of either deal were not disclosed.

Brown ranks second all-time on the Patriots receiving list, just 20 catches behind Stanley Morgan (534). Last season, Brown was third on the team with 39 receptions for 466 yards and 2 touchdowns during the regular season, adding an 11-yard score and 4 defensive tackles against Jacksonville during the Wild Card game in the playoffs.

Brown is also second in receiving yards (5.982); the leader in punt returns (244) and yards (2,554); tied for first with Irving Fryar in punt returns for touchdowns (3); and alone in first in overall return yards (4,416). His 175 games played in his 13-year career ranks seventh on the all-time team list. His 175 games played in his 13-year career ranks seventh on the all-time team list.

Brown earned a Pro Bowl selection in 2001 when he caught a franchise record 101 passes, also good for second in single-season receiving yards (1,199) behind Morgan (1,491 in 1986). In 2002, he grabbed 97 receptions, a team-record 16 in a single game against Kansas City in September.


In 2004, in an effort to help the team in any way possible, Brown converted to defensive back for the final nine games of the season. He made 17 tackles and was second on the team with three interceptions. He also had 17 receptions as a receiver during the first 17 games of the season. Brown played defense in all three playoff games that year, as New England won Super Bowl XXXIX.

Brown played major roles in New England's other two Super Bowl wins as well. In 2001, he led the team with 18 post-season receptions, including 6 in Super Bowl XXXVI against the St. Louis Rams. Of his 89 yards in the game, 23 came on a stellar across-the-middle catch on the game-winning drive. In 2003, he tied for the team lead with 17 post-season receptions, including eight against Carolina in Super Bowl XXXVIII, three on the game-winning drive.

Brown is the longest tenured member of the Patriots, New England selecting him with the 198th overall pick (eighth round) in the 1993 NFL Draft. The 5-foot-10, 196-pound receiver has been voted an offensive captain by his teammates the last four years. His other career stats include 28 rushes for 160 yards and five passes defensed.

Neal played right guard in all 16 regular season and two playoff games last year. Though wracked with injuries, Neal and his lineman teammates allowed just 28 sacks. Neal made his stake in the line in 2004, starting the last 14 regular season games and all three playoff games, including Super Bowl XXXIX. A more intact line allowed just 26 sacks that year, while paving the way for Corey Dillon to set a franchise record in rushing yards (1,635). The sacks were a 10-year low, and the team's four-plus yards per carry averages was a 19-year high.

A college wrestler, not a football player, Neal joined New England at the start of training camp in 2001 but did not make the team and spent most of the season on Philadelphia's practice team. The Patriots reclaimed him there in December, but Neal remained on the sidelines until October of 2002, but was injured in his second game, forcing him to miss the rest of 2002 and all of 2003.