FOXBORO — In the end, Max Lane probably won't be remembered for the seven years of serviceable offensive tackle and guard he played for the New England Patriots.
The memory that is likely to stick in the minds of Patriots' fans is the image of Lane being tossed aside like a rag doll by the Packers' Reggie White on at least three occasions during Super Bowl XXXI in New Orleans.
That's an unfortunate legacy, in that many offensive linemen were similarly cast aside effortlessly by White during his long and distinguished career — but when you get to a Super Bowl only once about every 11 years or so, things tend to be magnified some. Just ask Tony Eason.
Still, it should be remembered that Lane, who was released by the Patriots Friday afternoon, contributed well enough to be a vital part of a team that not only made it to the Super Bowl in the 1996 season, it also qualified for the playoffs in four of his seven seasons.
But the times, they are a-changin' in Foxboro — and coach Bill Belichick seems determined to make a clean break with the team's past in order to prepare it for the future.
“It's never easy releasing a player, but considering the utmost respect we have for Max, as a tough reliable player on the field and as a solid person off the field, makes it especially difficult,” Belichick said in a prepared statement.
Lane, interviewed Friday on Boston radio station WEEI, said he didn't see this one coming.
“I was shocked and disappointed, and that's it,” Lane said. “I was just coming in for rehab, and they told me to go upstairs.
“I didn't see it,” he continued. “My contract had been reworked in February and I thought it gave me some security to be here another year because it was more (salary) cap friendly.”
Lane, 30, was scheduled to make a base salary of $480,000 this year, with a jump to $1.2 million in 2002, the contract's last year.
Last year was an injury-plagued season for the former Midshipman from Navy.
He suffered a broken thumb in the season-opening game at home against Tampa Bay, was inactive for the next four games, and returned for four more games before breaking his left leg early in the Patriots' 19-11 loss at Cleveland Nov. 12. He was placed on the injured-reserve list two days later.
Lane said he didn't believe his lack of playing time in 2000 put him at a disadvantage in the eyes of the new coaching staff because Belichick and many of his assistants were on Bill Parcells' staff prior to 1997. He also expects to be employed again in short order.
“I'll be ready for somebody's training camp,” he said.
Lane was the Patriots' second of two sixth-round draft picks in 1994, the 168th overall selection. As it turned out, he was one of the more productive members of Parcells' worst draft with the Patriots — one from which only two players out of 13 selections remain active in the NFL today (defensive end Willie McGinest, No. 4 overall, and linebacker Marty Moore, now with Cleveland, the 222nd and last selection).
The 6-foot-6, 310-pounder arrived amid some measure of controversy, having resigned his commission on the verge of his graduation from the U.S. Naval Academy. It was part of an agreement he struck with the academy's honor board after he had been cleared of charges of cheating on an examination, allowing him to skip his military commitment and enter the NFL immediately.
He played in 101 games with the Patriots, starting 71 during his seven-year career, including all 48 games from 1995-97. But after being manhandled at right tackle by White in the Super Bowl, new head coach Pete Carroll signed Zefross Moss away from Detroit to take over at right tackle the next year and Lane was shifted to left guard.
He eventually found his way back to the right side by the end of the 1999 season, finishing his tenure with the Patriots with 40 starts at right tackle, 27 at left guard and three at right guard.
Lane also hit another speed bump midway through the 1997 season when he, Todd Rucci, Drew Bledsoe and Scott Zolak were involved in the infamous “mosh pit” incident at the Club Paradise, a Boston night club. A female patron claimed to be injured by the football players when they leaped off the stage during a performance by the band “Everclear.”
The matter was eventually settled out of court, but it tarnished the linemen's image in the public eye because it closely followed new contracts that made both millionaires.
Despite those travails, Lane made Walpole his home and said Friday it will remain so, regardless of where he lands.
“I made my home here,” the native of Norborne, Mo., said. “No matter where I go and play from here on out, New England will be my home.”
Lane chose Friday to take the high road in regard to Belichick's purging of veterans from the Patriots' glory days. Only two starters from that Super Bowl team remain on offense (Bledsoe, Terry Glenn) and five on defense (McGinest, Ted Johnson, Ty Law, Otis Smith, Lawyer Milloy).
“In spite of the way that the swinging door has gone,” Lane said, “this team is changing … and sure, even though I'm a part of that change, I think they're going in the right direction.
“It's just too bad I won't be there to enjoy it,” he added.