When likely future Hall of Famer Junior Seau announced his retirement early last week in San Diego, he did so in part because he said he couldn't find a team interested in his services that "needed him to win."
All that changed, though, when the Patriots came calling just one day later. Thanks to injuries to Tedy Bruschi, Chad Brown and Monty Beisel, and the failure to do much to replace offseason departure Willie McGinest, New England found itself precariously thin at linebacker in the middle of August. So just days after Seau talked during his exit press conference about graduating in his football career, he was lured out of the mini sabbatical in order pursue his masters with Bill Belichick and Co. in New England.
In fact, the idea of playing for Belichick and that it was the Patriots calling had a lot to do with why the 37-year-old pulled the 180 on his short-lived departure from the game.
"Why (am I back)? Because I received a call from the New England Patriots and I felt that there was obviously a great interest for them to even respect me enough to allow the call and there is a great fit here," Seau said after signing Aug. 18. "That's what I believe and I believe that they have great plans here and there's a chance to win something big here and we're going to go for it."
"When a championship team calls, you definitely have to answer the call and look into it and that's exactly what I did."
Seau likely projects as an inside contributor in New England's 3-4 scheme, although he's played mostly outside linebacker out of the 4-3 throughout his 16 seasons. That's not something that has the 12-time Pro Bowl selection worried, though. Playing last season under Belichick protege Nick Saban in Miami could give the veteran a head start on the scheme, but in the end only time will tell how quickly Seau can acclimate to the difficult new system and what exactly he can bring to the New England front seven.
"What we have is a playbook that I'm going to try to grasp and try to absorb and obviously get ready for the preseason game next week and see what happens after that," Seau said. "But there's definitely a learning curve that I need to go through.
"There's nothing that I won't be able to grasp before the season."
After spending his first 13 NFL seasons with the Chargers, along the way earning All-Pro honors six times, Seau put in a disappointing trio of seasons in Miami over the last three years. While he played in 15 games of the Dolphins in 2003, and only missed seven games total in 14 seasons from 1990 to 2003, he played in just 15 total over the last two falls due to injury.
Once one of the most durable and dominating defenders in the game, Seau is now just another in a long line of late summer veteran acquisitions the Patriots have turned to in need. Once upon a time guys like Bryan Cox, Roman Phifer and Ted Washington came to New England late, only to help the team win Super Bowls. And with a linebacking corps that looks anything but championship caliber at this point, Seau may be asked to make similar contributions. At least that's the plan, although as even the linebacker himself will admit, no one really knows if he can fit the bill.
"Whatever role I play, it's going to be something that we're all going to be suited for and obviously we're going to try to have success at it," Seau said. "We're just going to have to see. Only time can tell."