You could argue that James White is the best and most complete running back in New England Patriots history. The 30-year-old, three-time Super Bowl champion retired on Thursday via a heartfelt social media post.
White has been a team captain and leader for the Patriots since 2018, and his impact on his teammates was apparent in the outpouring of replies on both Twitter and Instagram.
Former Patriots safety and White’s teammate on all of his Super Bowl-winning clubs, Patrick Chung kept it short and sweet, addressing the man known as “Sweet Feet” because of his fluidity and agility with the ball.
Another recently retired former Patriots great, Julian Edelman, took to Twitter to pay his respects to White.
Players of notable stature often receive an acknowledgment from future Hall-of-Fame coach Bill Belichick and owner Robert Kraft when they call it a career. As one of the final stamps of approval on White’s successful career, Belichick and Kraft acknowledged White with posts that went live on social media shortly after the announcement.
It’s not a stretch to say White is one of the most respected Patriots players over the past decade.
What Caused White’s Retirement?
White suffered a hip injury in a Week 3 loss to the New Orleans Saints. Edwin Porras, a Physical Therapist, posted a video and a brief outlook on the injury after it happened.
White was placed on injured reserve after the game and declared out for the remainder of the season. There was some hope he’d be able to recover and return this year. However, he began training camp on the physically unable to perform list and was never activated.
His absence from the field was expected to be “lengthy,” as Porras suggested, but up until the announcement on Thursday, there was still hope he’d return at some point.
Where Does He Rank All-Time Among Patriots Running Backs?
While White ranks only 29th all-time in rushing yards for the Patriots with 1,278 yards, he made his most memorable marks as a receiver out of the backfield.
He ranks 14th in Patriots history in receptions with 381. Kevin Faulk is the only RB on the list who ranks higher, and he’s 13th with 50 more receptions than White at 431.
Who can forget White’s epic performance against the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI. The Patriots trailed 28-3 in the third quarter before Tom Brady led them on the comeback trail. While Brady has received and earned props for his leadership in this game, White had a stellar 14 receptions for 110 yards, a TD with 29 yards rushing, and two more trips to the end zone on the ground.
It was a legendary performance that forever endeared White to Patriots Nation
Who is Likely to Fill His Shoes?
Rookie running back Pierre Strong Jr. might be the long-term fit for White’s role, but the more immediate option for the Patriots is likely to be veteran hybrid player Ty Montgomery. New England signed Montgomery this past offseason after White’s injury, and he has looked solid through training camp.
Montgomery didn’t get any action on Thursday night in the Patriots’ preseason opener against the Giants, but that could mean he figures to be a major part of the offense during the regular season.
Mac Jones nor any of the Patriots’ other offensive starters played in the opener. That’s a good sign for Montgomery.