The Patriots signed future Hall of Fame linebacker Junior Seau as a free agent on Aug. 18, 2006. Over his illustrious 17-year career, Seau earned 12 consecutive trips to the Pro Bowl and was named to the NFL's All-Decade Team for the 1990s. The 6-foot-3-inch, 248-pound linebacker recorded 1,724 tackles, 52 sacks and 15 interceptions in 16 seasons with the San Diego Chargers and Miami Dolphins. Seau now brings his wealth of experience to the Patriots.
Seau sat down with us to talk about becoming a Patriot, learning Bill Belichick's defense and how he got here.
You've been here for a few weeks now and you're probably starting to get settled. How has your experience in New England been so far?
The weather is surprisingly better than I thought it would be.
You haven't seen anything yet. You grew up in San Diego, went to USC and played for the Chargers and the Dolphins - is this going to be the first time you've ever spent a significant amount of time in a cold weather climate?
This is my first season in cold weather. Definitely. I don't know what to do to prepare. I'm just taking it day-byday. I know the wardrobe I brought with me isn't conducive to the weather that's coming. I'm definitely going to have to go on a little shopping spree. I'm trying to get ideas from all the guys about where to go shopping.
You have to find out where the big and tall stores are?
Nope. I can somehow get away with an XXL off the rack. I'm definitely going to have to buy a jacket.
What else is different here?
The food here at the stadium is unbelievable. This is definitely the best training table I've ever been a part of. The meals here are right up there with restaurant food. We actually have cooks here, and they care about the players very much.
Considering how much you guys eat and the importance of nutrition, the quality of the food must be a big thing for the players.
It starts with the Kraft family. The little details - like the training food being as good as a five-star restaurant - it comes from the top. It's so nice to see that. It really is.
What was it like playing in front of the Gillette Stadium crowd for the first time?
My fondest experience so far was actually the first time I suited up for the preseason game against Arizona, even though I didn't play. The ovation I got from the fans, just the way they embraced me standing on the sidelines, was unbelievable. It's so nice to have such a packed stadium, to have 70,000 people cheering when you're getting ready for the game. It's a big high.
You've accomplished nearly everything a player can accomplish in this league. Why come back for another season?
This is such a great situation overall. It just fits. When you look at an organization like the Patriots - you have the Kraft family in ownership, and then the coaching staff here, where Bill Belichick has a system already inserted that has been very successful for so many years; there's a great quarterback in Tom Brady, who can handle an offense like no other; and then there is the defense that has so many roles that Bill tinkers with. To have Bill give me a call and say, 'I want you to be part of this formula,' was special. That's the reason why I'm here: to help the Patriots win another championship. And it would be my first, so it would be exciting if it happened.
So it's all about winning?
The name of the game is to win. I don't care how you look at it. At the end of the day, you either move on to the next step, or you go back to the drawing board and figure out what went wrong. It seems like the New England Patriots are always taking that next step, and that's exciting to me. Having an opportunity to be on top after 17 years, it would make a great story. But it is hard to do. Our job is to just focus on winning this week.
How much did Bill Belichick have to do with your decision to come play another year?
Playing under Bill is one of the most exciting things about being here. When you look at Bill, he just has a knack for winning. He knows the game of football, and he has a lot of respect in this league. He definitely has respect from me.
Coach Belichick said the other day that he caught you in the film room before 6 a.m. studying tape. Is that the way you would normally prepare, or is part of that because you're learning a new defense?
That's just what I'm supposed to do. I don't call that hard work; it's just normal work. You either do it or you don't. What I do to prepare is what I believe needs to be done. That's just me. I love the game of football and I love to win.
Are you at the point now where you're starting to get a good handle on the defense, reacting instead of thinking?
My process is to build every week. I can't pinpoint exactly where I am. I have to look at every game as a test. Each week I start from zero, and I'll be judged at the end of every game. It matters how you perform each Sunday. That's the report card.
Your family stayed in San Diego. You're living in a hotel. Are you just 100 percent focused on football?
I'm driving a station wagon [laughing].
It's a company car [laughing]. I'm here to play football. I'm here to help this team win. I am going to be dedicated to the game of football for five straight months. I can do that and I will do that. That's going to be my life. I give my kids a wake-up call in the morning and talk to them, and then I call them after they're done with school. It's tough, but they know that dad is at work.
Is there one particular player that you've been leaning on as you try to assimilate into this locker room and this defense?
I'm taking information from every single person here. You have so many leaders on this team, veterans that know the system. It's easy to find answers. They'll probably get tired of me asking questions after every play and in the locker room, but it's definitely something I'm doing.
Is this the first time you haven't had to be a leader in the locker room?
It's a great mix and a great situation. I'm coming a little late in the game, so there are already established roles. I'm just a coconut floating in. No one is expecting me to fill any voids. I just want to add to the formula, and the way to do that is between the white lines. I'm not here to take anybody's position; I'm not here to take any spotlight; I'm here to help this team win. And that's a great situation for me. It really is. It's a great situation for me. I don't have the pressure of doing anything but going out there and playing the sport that I love.
You seem pretty comfortable, though. From day one you were singing in the locker room.
The locker room is my domain. That's where I belong. Being back in the locker room is definitely a treat. I'm definitely blessed to be here. And I make sure every day I earn that, to be part of that locker room. I've been in this business a long time, but there is never a point in time, for any person, when you can't grow.
In August, before you got that call, could you have imagined that you would be here right now?
At that time I didn't feel like there was a team that really needed me, and so I decided it was time to let it go. And then I received a call from the winner of three of the last five Super Bowls, and I had to answer the call. And they approached me, which was a great feeling. They don't just call anybody. People were saying that, after 16 years, I was washed up. Bill and Scott Pioli took a risk and said that they believe I can help out. That's enough for me to say, 'You know what, you're getting all of me.'
So then the coconut floated in here?
The coconut came out with a tank top, some shorts and some flip-flops and started putting on some sweat suits.