Rather than breaking out the golf clubs and moving to Palm Beach, linebacker Junior Seau is headed to the cold northeast to help the linebacker-depleted Patriots. Seau signed with the Patriots on Friday, just three days after announcing his retirement.
During a ceremony that drew a crowd of approximately 400 people at Chargers Park on Monday, Seau refused to call his departure a retirement, labeling it a "graduation" instead. Seau spent some time surfing after the first proclamations were made but during the ceremony he admitted, "Retiring means you're going to just go ahead and live on your laurels and surf all day in Oceanside. Ain't going to happen. It's not going to happen with me."
Apparently surfing wasn't going to be enough to keep the 37-year old future Hall of Famer content.
Seau, a 12-time Pro Bowler, was picked fifth overall in the 1990 NFL draft by the Chargers, a team he stayed with for 13 years before leaving for Miami. Seau played only 15 games in the last two of his three seasons with the Dolphins, being plagued by injuries.
He was a mainstay of the Chargers defense, though the team went 88–208 in regular season games while he was there. He has accumulated more than 1,600 tackles and 52 sacks since entering the league, but recorded a career-low 36 tackles with the Dolphins in 2005. He was inactive for the final six games of the season – a period in which the Dolphins really turned things around - winning all six and making playoff run.
The Dolphins released Seau on Aug. 6 and Head Coach Nick Saban was apologetic, saying, "One of the most difficult parts of my job is having to release players, and the past week has emphasized this fact. This is especially true when those players made significant contributions to the success of the team in the past. Ideally, we would like to keep many of those players on our roster, but we are simply not able to do that."
Seau has been in the league 16 years but never won a Super Bowl, although he did play in Super Bowl XXIX. One Patriot who played along side him in that game and seen his share of Super Bowls since is safety Rodney Harrison, who has had nothing but praise for his former teammate.
"I always talk about how Ronnie Lott was an idol of mine, how I tried to pattern my game after Ronnie," Harrison said. "But it's funny because I always tried to pattern my work ethic behind Junior. He's probably the single most influential person in my professional career, just with his work ethic, commitment, dedication to the game, what it meant to him, how he worked, just everything." Harrison and Seau played on the same defense for nine years in San Diego.
His farewell speech seemed to have an undertone of hesitation at times – like he wasn't ready to call it quits. "I'm healthy, I can play, and there are teams out there that had interest, but they just didn't need [me]," Seau said. "They wanted me but they didn't need me. I'm not a player that can play by just wanting to play the game. I'm a guy that needs to win and they go hand in hand."
Winning is certainly something the Patriots are planning on doing this season and with veteran leader Tedy Bruschi recovering from a wrist injury that typically requires about six weeks to heal, they definitely have some needs at linebacker. Monty Beisel has also been sitting out of practices since last week's Falcons game and Mike Vrabel has been stepping inside to support the middle (as he did for much of last season) rather than playing his ideal position on the outside.
Now that he's a Patriot, Seau's future seems a bit more certain that it did earlier in the week. He'll just keep doing what he's been doing – playing football. It will be interesting to see whether he'll be filling in on the inside, or playing his old outside linebacker position. But at 6-3, 250 pounds, he'll be a large and respected veteran addition to the team.