With the third exhibition game of the season on Saturday, Head Coach Bill Belichick addressed this weeks practice routine again, explaining that the Patriots will take steps to acclimate the players to the regular season practice schedule before their home meeting with the Redskins.
"This week's a little bit of a cross between training camp and the regular season, certainly pushing closer to the regular season and the type of schedule that we're trying to get on here. I think it's a real good opportunity for our team to understand kind of how we prepare during a regular season week. You know, what a Wednesday is, which is today, Thursday, Friday. How to utilize their time and make the most of the practice opportunities and meeting opportunities that we have to get ready for a game," Belichick said.
He was careful to explain that this week will be a hybrid of training camp practice as it has been and what each week will be like during the regular season.
"That's a big part of what this week is. Certainly compared to next week, which will be an abbreviated preparation week. But we're still in camp. The things we need to work on are independent of any specific opponent. But we're still trying to merge those two together."
Despite his long list of accolades and sixteen years of experience, Junior Seau will be learning the Patriots regular season schedule this week as well. The future Hall of Famer seemed anxious to get to work and find a place in the system, though he wasn't overly confident.
Asked about how much he thinks he'll contribute to the defense, Seau responded, "Well, obviously we're a long ways from there. It's the first practice. And we're just going to take it day by day and kind of gradually get into it. I'm not going to go out there and blitz every down and smash mouth on every one that's been here for like two-and-a-half months. But there is a maturation process, which I have to go through, and I look forward to that."
One might think at 37 years old, Seau is already mature, but he spoke with the excitement of a rookie when talking about the call he got to play for the Patriots.
"Honestly, I thought my brothers were prank calling me. It was Belichick and the boys and (director of player personnel) Scott Pioli. It was a great call. It really was. It was a call in which it set me back and wondering what was I going to do. Obviously I had to get together with the family members and come to an agreement. This was our decision and so I'm going to go for it."
Another member of the linebacking corps, Rosevelt Colvin, was excited about Seau's addition to the team. He joked about playing as Seau in the Nintendo game, Techmo bowl when he was a kid. "Is this year 17 for him?" asked Colvin, laughing while thinking aloud. "I was 11 years old (when Seau entered the league in 1990)."
One player who is very excited about Seau's decision to play for the Patriots is Rodney Harrison, who played with Seau for the Chargers for his first nine seasons before joining the Patriots.
"I miss the number 55 we had here," said Harrison, referring to ex-Patriot Willie McGinest. "But to see Junior – to reunite with him, and to just see him come out of a two-day retirement, I'm very excited. I know what Junior brings to this table. I know that he's a leader. I know that he's an energetic guy. He's a very unselfish player, and I know he can still play and make plays."
Harrison has said before that Seau's style and approach to the game were a big influence on his approach to the game. He reiterated those thoughts today saying, "Junior was a guy that taught me how to be a Pro. I really tried to model my work ethic and a lot of things from Junior. I mean of course, when I won that Super Bowl, I was thinking, 'I wish my man Seau was here to experience this." Guess what? He's here."
Harrison, who was on the field today during the portion of practice available to the press, responded to questions about the timeline of his own return with his usual tenacity. "My goal is to practice today, and to make you guys wonder what day I'll return," said Harrison with a smile.
Seau was with the starting linebackers at practice while press was permitted there, despite Monty Beisel's return. Belichick said Seau would be playing inside linebacker in today's press conference, and that's just where he was in the Patriots 3-4. He was on the right side, wearing number 55, and on the left was Mike Vrabel. The outside linebackers were Colvin and Tully Banta-Cain.
Nobody can predict the future, but with luck and the mentality Belichick is hoping to instill in the Patriots, the next time Harrison wins the Super Bowl, Junior Seau will be there to celebrate.
A number of other players previously sitting out arrived today to participate in practice. Other than Beisel and Harrison; Nick Kaczur, Richard Seymour and Dan Koppen were also on the field during the portion of practice available to the media.
Kaczur, who was on the PUP list during all of training camp, returned to practice today. He was seen in the locker room before practice wearing a bulky wrap on his left shoulder, which came off as he suited up for the first time this season.
Asked if he was pleased with his rehab so far, Kaczur said, "Yeah. You know, so far. Like I said, today we're going to really see how it feels." He seemed a bit forlorn in his first encounter with the media, dressing while he spoke with his back to the crowd – no doubt nervous about the state of the undisclosed shoulder injury he sustained during the AFC Wild Card Game against Jacksonville.
"I've never been hurt before," Kaczur admitted, explaining that he had no idea what rehab would be like or how long it would take.
"I do whatever I can to get back out there. For the last two months, I've been with the trainers asking me, 'Are you ready for that?' or saying, 'This is what we do in this stage.' I just put all my trust in them, and they know better than I do. So that's all I was doing."
Players who weren't at practice today include: Jarvis Green, Chad Brown, Marquise Hill, Tedy Bruschi, Chad Jackson,Patrick Pass, Freddie Roachand John Stone.