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Hold that line

Posted by Tom Wilcox February 19, 2009 05:55 AM

It was just the third play of the game during the Patriots’ Week 10 win over Buffalo.

Richard Seymour busted through the Bills’ 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.

“If you want to be a better player, you have to go through some things,” said Seymour during the season. “That’s 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 can’t really rely on your physical ability.”

Entering the final year of his contract, the 29-year-old couldn’t have picked a better time to return to form. If the eight-year veteran hadn’t shown in 2008 that he could still be one of the league’s 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 aren’t as gaudy as those of other top-tier players, statistics don’t tell the whole story. It’s 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 he’s 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 NFL’s All-Pro First Team in 2003, 2004, and 2005. With three Super Bowl rings, he already has quite an impressive resume.

“I think that’s something to look at when it’s all said and done,” said Seymour. “Right now I’m still in it. I feel like I’m kind of midway through. I think when it’s all said and done, you can look back over your career, but right now I’m just trying to turn over every stone that I can just to try to be the best player that I can be.”

Said coach Bill Belichick: “He’s a good one. He does a lot of things well. He’s got good talent, a smart guy, works hard. He’s powerful, but he’s very athletic at the same time with a big frame. He can be hard to block.”

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 England’s leaders. He said he would love to finish his career as a Patriot.

“I feel like I still haven’t reached where I know I can get to as a player,” said Seymour. “With another good off-season of training and continuing to work out, I can get myself where I need to be. I feel like I’ve got a lot of good football left.”

Tom Wilcox covers the Patriots for OT and can be reached at twilcox@globe.com

4 comments so far...
  1. I am I the only only person who thinks that Richard Seymour mailed it in last year, that perhaps his reputation has far outweighed his recent performance on the field?
    Bill Belichick

    Posted by Anonymous February 19, 09 09:42 PM
  1. I'd love the Pats to bring back Seymour but I think they should focus on re-signing Wilfork first. He's younger and more valuable to the team. I know he was relatively healthy this year but Seymour just has a bad injury history.

    Posted by Matt February 23, 09 09:04 AM
  1. Mailed it in? Really? That's a bit harsh. Seymour had his best season in five years because he was pretty much healthy. Plus he gets double-teamed all the time. They'll miss his presence on the D-Line if he's not there.

    Posted by Matt February 25, 09 03:52 PM
  1. Three super bowls wins since hulk arrived in 2001....you all must have forgotten....his presence on the field opens plays up for everyone else...let him retire a patriot

    Posted by sigmund March 17, 09 04:55 PM
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