BOSTON (CBS) –  The New England Patriots have lost a staple on the sidelines.

Don Brocher, the team’s equipment manager and longest tenured employee in franchise history, lost his season-long battle with leukemia early Tuesday morning.

“The Kraft family and the entire Patriots organization awoke with very heavy hearts this morning,” Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft said in a statement. “That is when most of us learned of Don’s passing. He had fought this deadly disease so valiantly all season long. We were all optimistic that he would defeat it and fully recover. He was back on our sidelines just two weeks ago for our game against the 49ers and I can’t remember ever seeing him happier. I am glad I had that opportunity to thank him once again for his loyalty and countless contributions to the team. My thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Laurie, and all who knew Don and are mourning his loss today.”

2012 was Brocher’s 41st season with the Patriots and 19th as their equipment manager. He started off as a ball boy in 1972 and was hired full-time as an assistant that season. Brocher became equipment manager in 1994 and handled the equipment needs for thousands of players during the tenures of 11 of the franchise’s 14 head coaches. He was proud to be a member of each of the franchise’s seven Super Bowl teams and celebrated each of the Patriots’ three Super Bowl Championships.

Brocher was diagnosed with leukemia in June, and missed his first game in 40 years when he stayed home for the Patriots preseason game in Tampa Bay. It snapped a streak of 834 consecutive Patriots games that he had worked, including 37 of the franchise’s 39 postseason games.


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