Patriots RB James White, Super Bowl LI hero, retiring after eight seasons in NFL

New England Patriots running back James White is retiring after eight NFL seasons.

The hero of Super Bowl LI announced Thursday his decision to end his playing career.

"James defines the term consummate professional," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said in a statement. "His dependability, consistency, unselfishness and performance under pressure are elite. Combining great intelligence, quickness and elusiveness, James was a perfect fit for our pass offense. While soft spoken, he brought exceptional leadership and competitive toughness to the team. He was a multi-year team captain and one of the most respected, best team players I have ever coached."

One of the best pass-catching backs in the NFL for the bulk of his career, White retires with 381 receptions for 3,278 yards and 25 regular-season touchdowns. He also added 319 rushing attempts for 1,278 yards and 11 TDs in eight seasons with the Pats.

White, one of the most underrated players of the Patriots dynasties, was a matchup nightmare for linebackers in space.

As Tom Brady's sidecar, White showed up big in the postseason. Most memorably, the back helped spearhead the Pats' improbable comeback against the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI, catching 14 passes and scoring 20 points in the win, including breaking multiple tackles to plunge in for the game-winning score. He arguably could have been the game's MVP.

After deciding to return to New England in 2021, injuries relegated White to just three games played. He opened training camp in July on the PUP list.

Given the critical part White played in New England's Super Bowl runs, he should find himself one day in the Patriots Hall of Fame.

"James White has always been one of the most reliable and dependable players on the field," Patriots owner Robert Kraft added. "He's a soft-spoken leader who has led by example and was the best at what he did, leading all NFL running backs in receptions and receiving touchdowns over the past seven years. Our fans will remain eternally grateful for his record-setting performance in Super Bowl LI when he helped the Patriots overcome a 28-3 deficit by scoring 20 points, including the game-winning touchdown in overtime.

"As great of a player as James has been for us, he's an even better person. He is a man of great character and integrity and earned everyone's respect through his work ethic, professionalism and positive daily demeanor. James became a part of the Patriots' family while in New England and while his presence in our locker room will be missed, we are happy for James and his family as they embark on a new adventure. As a three-time Super Bowl Champion, we look forward to celebrating his career contributions for years to come."

With White walking away before the 2022 season, the Patriots' backfield is thinned. Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson lead the way. Stevenson, rookie Pierre Strong and RB/WR Ty Montgomery are the leading candidates to see more pass-catching snaps with White's retirement.

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