It was just the third play of the game during the Patriotsí Week 10 win over Buffalo.
Richard Seymour busted through the Billsí offensive line and sacked quarterback Trent Edwards. It was his only sack of the game, but Buffalo had to pay extra attention to No. 93 the rest of the way. His early impact dictated the tone on that November afternoon, as it did all season.
After battling elbow and knee injuries the previous two years, Seymour was finally healthy in 2008, and he reestablished himself as the menacing presence on the defensive line that he had been since entering the league in 2001. When he feels right, the 6-foot-6-inch, 310-pounder knows he can make a difference.
ďIf you want to be a better player, you have to go through some things,Ē said Seymour during the season. ďThatís what I always said. I want to always be a better player than I was when I first came into the league, and I think you have to go through some stretches where you canít really rely on your physical ability.Ē
Entering the final year of his contract, the 29-year-old couldnít have picked a better time to return to form. If the eight-year veteran hadnít shown in 2008 that he could still be one of the leagueís elite defensive players, the Patriots would have had to think twice about his $9.79 million salary cap figure in 2009.
Seymour received some criticism for his play falling off, especially considering the four-year, $30 million deal he signed in 2006. But during the first year of the contract he played 13 games, including the playoffs, with a bad elbow. He then spent the first seven weeks of the 2007 season on the physically unable to perform list while recovering from off-season knee surgery.
It took Seymour a little while to recover and return to form, but he served notice again last year that although his numbers arenít as gaudy as those of other top-tier players, statistics donít tell the whole story. Itís about the attention he gets and just how disruptive a presence he can be for opposing offenses.
Despite missing the final game of the regular season against the Bills with a lower back injury, Seymour still led all defensive linemen on the team in plays, getting in on 69 percent of the snaps, and he recorded a team-high eight sacks, matching his career high, set in 2003.
He was also eighth on the team with 63 tackles, the most heís had in a season in five years, and was first on the team in quarterback hits with 17, nearly double the total of any teammate.
Seymour made five straight Pro Bowls from 2002 through 2006 and was named to the NFLís All-Pro First Team in 2003, 2004, and 2005. With three Super Bowl rings, he already has quite an impressive resume.
ďI think thatís something to look at when itís all said and done,Ē said Seymour. ďRight now Iím still in it. I feel like Iím kind of midway through. I think when itís all said and done, you can look back over your career, but right now Iím just trying to turn over every stone that I can just to try to be the best player that I can be.Ē
Said coach Bill Belichick: ďHeís a good one. He does a lot of things well. Heís got good talent, a smart guy, works hard. Heís powerful, but heís very athletic at the same time with a big frame. He can be hard to block.Ē
Seymour, Vince Wilfork, and Ty Warren make up one of the top defensive lines in football, but the group may not be together after next season. Wilfork, Seymour, and the fourth defensive lineman, Jarvis Green, are all entering in the final year of their contracts.
The team may be looking to ease its salary cap situation this upcoming season by renegotiating a long-term extension with Seymour or keeping him at his current salary and working toward an extension by the end of the 2009 season.
Seymour, who was a defensive captain last season and is often one of the main voices of the team for the media in the locker room, has entrenched himself as one of New Englandís leaders. He said he would love to finish his career as a Patriot.
ďI feel like I still havenít reached where I know I can get to as a player,Ē said Seymour. ďWith another good off-season of training and continuing to work out, I can get myself where I need to be. I feel like Iíve got a lot of good football left.Ē
Tom Wilcox covers the Patriots for OT and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org