The move was a long time coming for Seau, who for months has publicly hinted he would return to the Patriots late this season. In the meantime, he has been filming a reality show for Versus called Sports Jobs with Junior Seau, in which he has moonlighted as a bullfighter, served as a ball boy for the Los Angeles Dodgers, driven a racecar with Danica Patrick and trained in a ring with UFC fighter Forrest Griffin.
Seau’s signing — which was announced on Tuesday in a statement released by Versus, although the Patriots would not confirm it during the afternoon’s scheduled conference calls with head coach Bill Belichick, director of player personnel Nick Caserio and defensive coordinator Dean Pees — gives New England some much-needed depth at linebacker.
While the Patriots’ defense has performed well in 2009, they’ve been lacking at the linebacker position due to the offseason trade of Mike Vrabel, the preseason retirement of Tedy Bruschi and the temporary loss of Jerod Mayo to a right knee injury.
As of Tuesday, Mayo, Gary Guyton and Eric Alexander — who is most effectively used on special teams — were the team’s only middle linebackers, so Seau adds instant credibility to that corps. The signing will probably spell the end of defensive tackle Terdell Sands’ brief stint in Foxborough.
Seau is entering his 20th season in the NFL and his fourth with the Patriots, so he’ll be limited in what he can physically contribute. He took a physical with the Patriots two weeks ago, and Caserio said Tuesday that Seau “keeps himself in good shape” and he’ll be healthy enough to actively participate in practices and games.
If Seau can contribute on a regular basis in game action — about half of the team’s defensive snaps might be a reasonable expectation — the Patriots can show more 3-4 sets, which they’ve steered away from this season more than they’ve normally done in the past. With Mayo and Seau at inside linebacker, the Patriots might also opt to give the ultrafast Guyton some reps at outside linebacker opposite Adalius Thomas.
Obviously, it’s unfair to expect Seau to perform at a dominant level, but his addition is worthwhile because it gives Belichick more options with his defensive schemes. Most important with Belichick’s defense is a player’s understanding of his responsibilities on every play, and Seau has proven his worth in that department.
Seau, a surefire Hall of Famer, spent his first 13 seasons with the San Diego Chargers before joining the Miami Dolphins for three years.
He signed with the Patriots in 2006 and he has played 31 games with 16 starts. In three seasons with the Patriots, Seau has registered 112 tackles, 4.5 sacks, three interceptions and five passes defensed.
Seau played 11 games in 2006 but broke his forearm while tackling Chicago Bears running back Cedric Benson in November and was placed on injured reserve. He had his best season in 2007, when — as a defensive captain — he recorded 58 tackles, 3.5 sacks and three picks while playing in all 16 games (four starts). After Thomas was placed on injured reserve last season, Seau rejoined the Patriots for the final four games of 2008.
One report indicated Seau would be available to play Sunday against the Tennessee Titans at Gillette Stadium. If that is the case, Seau is expected to be at practice Wednesday afternoon when the Patriots begin preparing for the Titans.
Update: The team officially announced the signing of Seau on Wednesday morning.
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