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Seau returns, replaces injured Bruschi

SEATTLE -- With rain pelting his new helmet and former teammate Deion Branch faking him out into the bench area, this was a rough return for Junior Seau.

The newest Patriot expected to ease into his return just two days after again coming out of retirement for a second time. Yet when starting inside linebacker Tedy Bruschi limped off the field early in the second quarter of New England's 24-21 victory over Seattle on Sunday, the 39-year-old resident of San Diego was back in the middle of a defense days after catching waves and taking his kids to volleyball games.

"I was surfing a week ago (but) there was no time to be thinking about that," Seau, a 12-time Pro Bowl selection, said while wearing a smile and a small gray fedora after the game.

He was credited with one tackle in his first game since February's Super Bowl. On Seau's third play, Seattle tight end John Carlson beat him on an out route for a 10-yard touchdown reception that gave Seattle a 14-3 lead.

"Junior? He played three quarters? That will tell you a lot about him, huh?" said safety Brandon Meriweather, who clinched the win that put New England in a three-way tie for the AFC East lead when he sacked Seneca Wallace and forced a fumble that Richard Seymour recovered near midfield with 1:54 left.

Branch was Seau's teammate in New England for a few months of the offseason in 2006, until Branch held out and then got traded from New England to Seattle. He caught a short pass on the sideline in front of Seau late in the third quarter, then head-faked him through the boundary. He continued on a 63-yard catch and run that set up a 4-yard touchdown catch that gave the Seahawks a 21-13 lead.

"I went surfing and that was it," Seau said with a smile.

Branch joked: "Once I caught it, I looked up and saw Junior and I remembered that he just signed back (Friday). So I looked at him and I knew I could beat him."

Seau turns 40 next month. He called the game his training camp. His only practice was a short walkthrough on Saturday.

Rosevelt Colvin also shook off mothballs to aid the Patriots' depleted defense. The 31-year-old signed Wednesday. He had been packing boxes at the two UPS stores he owns in Indianapolis, or spending weekday mornings fixing his daughters' hair and driving them to school in Houston, before New England called.

"It's like 'Welcome back,' you know?" said Mike Vrabel, the one starting linebacker left standing -- and he was knocked woozy and missed a few plays early in the first half before returning.

"They've been here a day and a half, get thrown out there and they do a great job."

Colvin was credited with a quarterback hit.

"The rust had to come off quickly," he said. "It took me a minute to realize they were targeting me."

New England was already missing linebacker Adalius Thomas before his replacement, Pierre Woods, was inactive for the first time this season because of a jaw injury. Then Bruschi limped off the field early in the second quarter with a left knee injury after getting hit by a teammate at the end of Maurice Morris' 4-yard run. Bruschi rolled around in pain and a Seahawks trainer rushed to his side before New England medical personnel could get across the field.

After a few minutes on his back, Bruschi got up on his own and walked slowly off the field with a noticeable limp. He walked to the locker room a few minutes later.

Defensive tackle Vince Wilfork also left in the first quarter with a shoulder injury and went back to the locker room.

Coach Bill Belichick downplayed the impact of it all.

"I think we have a lot of really tough people in that locker room, both physically and mentally," Belichick said. "This time of year everybody is banged up, and they played through it."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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