UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
August 19, 2006
After signing a one-year contract with the New England Patriots yesterday, former Chargers linebacker Junior Seau said the opportunity to chase a championship was the major reason he ended his retirement after only four days.
“Obviously, we understand where their focus is – to win championships,” he said of the Patriots, who have won three of the past five Super Bowls. “It's something I'm missing in my career and I just feel that there is an opportunity I need to seize right now.”
Patriots defensive lineman Richard Seymour, left, and newly acquired linebacker Junior Seau watch their offense work against the Arizona Cardinals during the first quarter of a preseason NFL game in Foxborough, Mass., Saturday night.
“I think we're all shocked,” he said during a conference call from Foxborough, Mass., with the media. “I think only time will kind of soothe it, and we can grin and bear it. It was a call that was made on Tuesday morning after, obviously, the press conference, which was a great day. There was interest by the New England Patriots and we discussed it for two days and, obviously, I made a trip here to take a physical and come see the facilities and meet the upper management. And here we are.”
He said his decision to join the Patriots wasn't automatic.
“There was definitely a thought process in which, obviously, I had to talk with family members and kind of see where (the Patriots) thought I fit and how they were going to utilize me and everything else,” he said. “But, when a championship team calls, you definitely have to answer the call and look into it, and that's exactly what I did.”
Seau, 37, who is entering his 17th season, spent 13 years with the Chargers before being traded to Miami in 2003. He played three seasons with the Dolphins but was dissatisfied with his final two because injuries limited him to eight games in 2004 and seven last year.
“There are a lot of things that come to play when it comes to my role of deciding to come back in the National Football League after two days of retirement,” he said. “Number one was, basically, a team that has an opportunity to win a championship, and a role in which I can play to contribute to winning a championship. And, obviously, leaving the last two years with an injury wasn't something I was satisfied with.”
Seau couldn't have been more satisfied yesterday when he arrived at the Patriots' Foxborough training complex and was greeted by strong safety Rodney Harrison, with whom he teamed for nine years in San Diego.
“It was definitely a homecoming when I saw Rodney,” Seau said. “There were hugs and joyful cheers when we met. We have a lot of respect for each other. Throughout the years it grew to both of us loving each other as people and players. We've definitely seen each other grow up.”
Now, they're hoping to finish what they started together in 1994, Harrison's rookie season in San Diego. The Chargers made their only Super Bowl appearance that season but wound up being routed in Miami by San Francisco.
Seau, who will wear his familiar No. 55 with the Patriots, said the team plans to work him at two positions. He initially is being counted on to play inside, where he would be used on obvious running downs. In Miami, he played on the outside, where he had to cover tight ends and play in space. As an inside linebacker, he'll be confined to a much tighter area and, thus possibly be more effective because of his power and explosiveness.
“I believe that going against a fullback is a lot easier than covering a wide receiver,” he said.
Seau believes the transition to New England will be easier because the Patriots use some of the same defensive concepts the Dolphins did last season. Miami coach Nick Saban previously worked for Patriots coach Bill Belichick in Cleveland, so their schemes are similar.
Still, Seau said, “There are a couple of wrinkles in there that are different, and those are the things that I need to learn.”
He followed the education theme by saying that after “graduating” on Monday, he's enrolling in graduate school with the Patriots.
“I'm going after my master's now,” he said.
Not surprisingly, the questions eventually returned to his decision to come back after such a brief departure. Seau said he thought about how he would explain his decision.
“If anyone heard the press conference, basically (Seau told the audience that) if a team would approach me I would definitely look at them, but there weren't any teams calling,” he said. “There were teams that wanted me, but I didn't feel like they pushed for it. Obviously, when Bill Belichick and the Patriots called, you answer that kind of call, and I did.”
Jim Trotter: (619) 293-1859; firstname.lastname@example.org