Patriots defensive lineman Richard Seymour, who likes to travel during the offseason, generally prefers to go someplace where he can lounge around by the water after the grueling rigors of an NFL season.
This spring's trip, though, was no day at the beach. But it was also a journey he knew he couldn't pass up any longer.
"It was a different experience," Seymour said this week about his recent trip to Israel, one he and tight end Benjamin Watson embarked on as guests of Patriots owner Robert Kraft.
"I was thankful for the opportunity that Mr. Kraft and his family offered me and my wife. He first offered it about four years ago, and this year was the first time we had the opportunity to go, because each year, my wife has been pregnant."
Seymour is back at Gillette Stadium these days taking part in the team's offseason strength and conditioning program, which got underway this week. After a workout on Tuesday, he took a time out to speak with reporters and reflect on his unique vacation.
He said he has long been fascinated with the history and culture of the region, but seeing it in person took him beyond anything he ever imagined. He even employed a football analogy to make his point.
"It was just amazing to see the things (I read about), because sometimes you can read and it sounds like a story, but when you actually see it, it really comes to life. Sometimes, you can read a play in the playbook, but until you do it, you don't experience it."
Despite being half a world away from home, Seymour couldn't completely escape the world of football.
The Patriots contingent spent part of their trip watching Big Blue Jerusalem, the powerhouse team of the Israel Football League, coast to a 38-0 victory over a team from Tel Aviv. It was a home game for Jerusalem, which plays at the Kraft Family Stadium, whose namesake built the FieldTurf facility to help foster the growth of football in Israel.
The Middle East is often a volatile region, as Seymour and Co. came close to witnessing during their journey. While in Jerusalem, they were having dinner while just two miles down the road, a gunman opened fire in the library of a rabbinical seminary. Eight people were killed, nine others wounded.
"But we had security, we were in a safe environment," Seymour noted, though he quickly added that being so close to potential danger was always in the back of his mind.
"That's the kind of thing that goes on over there, and it's one of the reasons why you're always skeptical. You know, is it at peace over there right now or not? Just like anywhere, there's always (a risk of) terrorist attacks, but we were safe and were able to get back out there."
|Richard Seymour waves during the closing seconds against the Houston Texans Dec. 17, 2006 (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)|
And when they did, they were able to experience the enjoyable aspects that Israel has to offer. Seymour, a very spiritual man, revealed that one moment in particular from this trip will remain with him forever.
"Me and my wife were baptized in the Jordan River, the same place where Jesus was baptized. It was just a very awesome experience, all the places, the sites, the history, all the different cultures and different religions. But they're still able to live next to one another. It's a lot different than what it is here, too. Makes you appreciate what you have here, too."
Now that he's back in New England, Seymour is looking forward to getting back on the football field, particularly after the way the Patriots historically unfulfilling 2007 season ended.
"Obviously, it was disappointing to win as many games as we did and finish on a sour note. But last year is last year and we're not going to cry over anything that happened. We give the Giants a lot of credit. They played their butts off and they deserved it. They made plays when they needed to.
"That catch that (Giants wide receiver David) Tyree made on the top of his head," Seymour paused and shook his head, remembering New York's miraculous play on 3rd-and-5 late in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl, "it's just one of those things."
Yet, Seymour and the rest of his Patriots teammates know they must now put that behind them.
"For us, it's about getting better this offseason and getting into training and laying the foundation that it's going to take to be successful down the road."
It's a long road, down which Seymour took his first steps this week. But he appears healthy, refreshed and focused on the hard work ahead to get back into football shape for the 2008 season. And after his moving experience in Israel, Seymour is more grateful than ever for the life that football has afforded him.
"It's a game that I love and I wouldn't trade my job for anyone else's. I really enjoy and love doing what I'm doing."
Even if it isn't always a day at the beach.