Foxborough, Mass. – There's little question that Pro Bowl defensive end Richard Seymour is an integral part of the Patriots defense. So logically, as the Patriots move through their bye week in preparation of the AFC Divisional playoffs next weekend, a lingering question is whether they'll be playing with or without Seymour when they next take the field.
Seymour spoke to the media Wednesday for the first time since suffering a left knee injury against the New York Jets on December 26. The question of the day was the status of his health, and if he had reason to optimistic about a return.
"I'm praying for the best, just hoping that everything happens [and] I'll be out there," Seymour said. "That's my goal, to be out there. Realistically, what happens, I don't know."
Seymour was injured during the third quarter of the Jets' game when New York center Kevin Mawae fell into his left leg while blocking linebacker Mike Vrabel. Seymour, who left the game under his own power, was listed as 'doubtful' on last week's injury report and was deactivated for the win over San Francisco.
"It's always frustrating, but I think you have to have a good balance," Seymour said about the potential disappointment of not playing. "Just understand it's a part of the game. Seymour doesn't have a bulletproof vest on or anything like that. I'm human, just like everyone else. It's a part of the game, you know, you live and you learn. Hopefully something good will come out of it."
While specific information regarding his injury hasn't been revealed by the team, some outlets have reported he suffered an injury that would force him to miss three to six weeks. Seymour appeared candid that he'd do everything possible to return, even though he had no real idea when that will actually be.
"If I'm healthy enough to go out and play, definitely, I don't want to see my football team out there without me out there with those guys," he said. "I think I've battled with those guys, but in the work with those guys all season long. It's coming down to crunch time when you need all your players ready, you need everyone healthy to go. If I'm healthy enough to go, then I'll be out there."
It was a full house Wednesday in the media work room at Gillette Stadium, as Patriots head coach Bill Belichick held his usual press conference (10:45 a.m.), followed by quarterback Tom Brady for his weekly session at the podium.
Here is a recap of the highlights from Wednesday's press conferences:
- Belichick was succinct when asked about what type of message he had for his players as they take the bye weekend off following Wednesday's practice. "I think what we have to understand is that we have a opportunity. It's not anything you can ever count on down the road. You can't ever count or depend on this happening again. Right now, it's an opportunity that we need to do everything we can to take advantage of and be ready to maximize our performance next Sunday. Everything we got, we need to put into this one. Don't think that it will ever be there again, because there is no guarantee that it will. Just take advantage of the opportunity that we have right now and that is it."
- Belichick had praise for Troy Brown, who has seen action at wide receiver, punt returner and as a slot cornerback over the final nine weeks of the season. He noted he grades Brown's performance as a defensive back the same as he would for any other player, saying he's played "very competitively" despite his inexperience. "I think he's done a phenomenal job. I'm not saying he's the best defensive back in the league, but I think given his lack of experience of the position at the beginning of the year and from where he started in training camp in preseason to where he's progressed to the level of play that he's at-he's gone up against, whoever the best receivers are, he's seen them all and he's played against them. I think he's played very competitively. [He's] had very few mental mistakes, has had very few errors. Have they caught a pass on him? Yeah. They've caught them on him just like they've caught them on everybody else. I think it's been very competitive. I think he's tackled well. I think he's done a good solid job. I'm not trying to put him in the Hall of Fame or anything, but I think he's done a good competitive job."
- Belichick also admitted he "absolutely" gets more excited for the NFL playoffs. "This is it. You work hard to get to this position and we're fortunate that we have an opportunity to keep playing at this time of year. Every team wants to be in this spot and not all of them are, and we've been on the sidelines before. So, sure, it's a great opportunity and now is the time when you want to put everything else behind you and put everything you have into the next game, the next opponent."
- Belichick left very little on the table when asked how important safety Rodney Harrison is to the Patriots. "He's definitely one of our best football players, one of our best leaders on and off the field. He's a team captain. He's well respected by everybody in the organization, players, coaches, everybody who comes in contact with the football team. He sets a great example. He has one of the best work ethics I've ever personally been around. He sets a very high standard, not in a boastful or condescending way. He just puts a high level of performance and effort out there that I think everybody else kind of strives to keep up with or match. He does a tremendous job and he's a great player."
- Brady said he would "definitely" be watching the NFL playoff games this weekend, including the New York Jets at San Diego Saturday night and Denver at Indianapolis on Sunday afternoon – games which feature all three of the Patriots potential opponents. Brady, who confirmed he'll play particular attention to opposing defenses, said he watches as both a fan and a football player. "The [games] this weekend I'll be trying to study what they're doing and, after we figure out who we play, getting right in to the preparation. But, it's definitely different. It's not as much fun. I would say as much as I do enjoy watching the football part, it's still tempered by the fact that we're trying to get ready to play a game."
- As a team captain, Brady has been delegated by Belichick to speak with some of the other players on the team regarding how to prepare for a playoff game. Brady touched on his message to his teammates: "I think what you try to make them aware of is that these opportunities don't come along very often. It's almost like, 'What is the price you would pay for success? What would you give up to win this game? Would you give up a week of not doing anything but preparing for football?' When you've achieved what we've achieved, I think you just look back and you say, 'Whatever price I had to pay was just miniscule compared to the joy and the excitement of what we accomplished.' So, that's what it's about. It's a tremendous feeling. You just hate to look back if you lose a game and then for six or seven [days] think about, 'What if I did this? What if I had prepared more? What if I had made this play in this game?' or 'What if I had watched a little more film?' So, why leave that to chance. I just do it all and then try to go out and play your best."