Seau brings new energy to Patriots, his career
Junior Seau had picked off Derek Anderson’s pass and was heading downfield in the second quarter of a Week 5 win over the Cleveland Browns when he started waving his arms like the Tasmanian Devil.
“I don’t know what Junior is thinking sometimes,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said with a smile.
Well, it wasn’t the first time Seau has done the unexpected, right?
After finishing up his 16th NFL season with the Dolphins two years ago, the ex-Chargers icon apparently was thinking that he had had enough of football. Hence, the elaborate retirement party.
Then, all of a sudden, he was thinking, “Hey, on second thought …”
“There is a difference between caring and just wanting to play the game,” Seau explained as the Patriots were celebrating their AFC championship-game victory -- a triumph that Seau helped clinch with a key third-down stop in the red zone. “There’s a difference between ‘want’ and ‘need.’
“A ‘want’ person -- let me tell you about the ‘want’ person. Now I’ve been around the league a long time. The ‘want’ person will justify why he didn’t get it done. The ‘need’ person, there is no choice. And it takes years to understand the two.”
So, Seau needed to play more.
Luckily, the Patriots came calling. Or, rather, Belichick himself came calling.
“It wasn’t an assistant coach, it wasn’t anyone in the PR department,” Seau said of the first contact he had with the Patriots in the spring of 2006. “Belichick called and he said, ‘I’ve got a position for you.’ He didn’t say, ‘Would you like to come and play?’ He said, ‘I have a position for you.’
“That’s the world-champion coach calling a guy that had just gotten in (from) surfing. I’m going to answer that call.”
Good thing he did, because the out-of-left-field marriage has paid big dividends for both sides.
The Patriots got a hungry, high-energy veteran along the lines of Rodney Harrison (circa 2003) and Corey Dillon (circa 2004).
“He’s consistent. He brings it every day,” Belichick said after that win over the Browns. “He has a good level of energy and it’s real good for our football team. I’m glad we have him. I’m glad we do.
“He makes plays every week and a lot of plays, it’s things where he’ll draw something so somebody else can make it. It’s not in any way all about him. He’s a very unselfish player. He might be one of the most unselfish players I’ve ever coached.”
What did Seau get? Well, 29 more games (and counting). And, now, a second trip to the Super Bowl -- 13 seasons after he and Harrison were bulldozed by Steve Young and the 49ers.
“Obviously,” Seau said, “the first Super Bowl we went to, it didn’t pan out the way we wanted it to.
“I didn’t have a time frame for getting back,” he said. “No one ever does.
“You know, coming here to New England with the Kraft family and the Belichick family, (this is) all anyone wants. I don’t care if you’re a rookie to an 18-year vet. I don’t care if you’re a third-grader. All we ever want in life is a chance, just a chance.
“Does that mean a chance to win the Super Bowl? No. (Just) a chance to win.
“And when you win often, it leads into greater things. And you learn that during the course of life. It’s just, give an old man a chance.”
Seau had plenty of chances this season, especially after being thrust into the starting lineup in December after Rosevelt Colvin (foot) landed on injured reserve.
At age 38, he finished with 76 tackles (his most since 2003), 31/2 sacks (his most since 2000) and a career-high three interceptions.
Two of those picks came against the Browns.
The first one came in the end zone; the second one he punctuated with his arm-flapping celebration.
We might never know what was going on in Seau’s head during that runback. But Belichick did have a little chat with him afterward.
“He said he loved me,” Seau said with a smile, “in his own way.”
Seau’s legacy for longevity
MOST CONSECUTIVE YEARS VOTED TO THE PRO BOWL
Bruce Matthews, HOU/TEN14 (1988-01)
Reggie White, PHI/GB13 (1986-98)
Junior Seau, SD12 (1991-02)
Randall McDaniel, MIN/TB12 (1989-00)
Will Shields, KC12 (1995-06)
MOST GAMES BY A LINEBACKER
Clay Matthews, CLE/ATL 278 (1978-96)
Junior Seau, SD/MIA/NE257 (1990-07)
Bill Romanowski, SF/PHI/DEN/OAK243 (1988-03)
Kevin Greene, LA/PIT/CAR/SF228 (1985-99)
Rickey Jackson, NO/SF227 (1981-95)
The Patriot Ledger