One was surfing the previous week and the other hadn’t played all season. It didn’t matter. ¦ The plan was to use newly reacquired linebackers Junior Seau and Rosevelt Colvin sparingly, if at all, last Sunday. However, with the Patriots continuing to be decimated by injuries, particularly at linebacker, they didn’t have a choice. The Patriots were forced to use the grizzled veterans despite the fact that Seau had just one practice under his belt and Colvin two.
“When I left my kids, no longer going to their volleyball and football games, that stuff was over. It is time to play football,” said Seau after the Patriots’ 24-21 win over the Seahawks. “I expected to be thrown in there later on in the game, but obviously with the injuries that we had, I was rushed to it.”
The Patriots started the game without outside linebackers Pierre Woods (jaw) and Vince Redd (ankle), and Tedy Bruschi left the game with a knee injury in the second quarter and did not return. Bruschi was already listed as questionable with a knee injury before the game. Even Mike Vrabel got shaken up before returning.
That left an already depleted group relying on two veterans making their season debuts with the team’s playoff fate on the line.
“They’re professionals. They both prepared hard all week,” said Patriots coach Bill Belichick. “Of course Junior didn’t get in here until early Friday morning and only had one day of practice and a little walk-through [Dec. 4]. He’s a pro, and so is Rosy. Rosy worked hard all week and did a lot of things extra to be ready for the game, and we sure needed him.”
The 39-year-old Seau is a 12-time Pro Bowler now in his 19th season. He was a defensive captain for New England in 2007 and finished fifth on the team with 76 tackles. New England made room on the 53-man roster by placing linebacker Adalius Thomas (broken right forearm) on injured reserve.
Seau played 28 snaps last Sunday at inside linebacker, recorded one tackle, and appeared to have good coverage on John Carlson’s 10-yard touchdown catch in the flat in the second quarter. However, quarterback Seneca Wallace threaded the needle to his tight end for the score.
The 31-year-old Colvin is in his 10th season and played for the Patriots the previous five years. His signing this time around didn’t garner the attention it did in 2003, when Colvin inked a big contract and was expected be one of the top defenders in the league. That was before a hip injury in just his second game as a Patriot changed his fortunes. He spelled starter Gary Guyton last Sunday and was also in on 28 plays, but did not have a tackle.
“I figured I’d get a chance to get out there on the field,” said Colvin, who had been cut in training camp by the Texans. “Things kind of changed early on, and the opportunity was there. I definitely feel it, but I feel better about it than my outlook was going in.”
Colvin and Seau said they returned in part because of their belief the Patriots had a legitimate chance to succeed in the playoffs. The 8-5 Patriots are in a three-way tie for first place with the Jets and Dolphins, with a shot at a sixth consecutive AFC East title.
“I’ve said for years that Bill is probably one of the best coaches in the league,” said Colvin. “I’ve been on teams where you’ve had injuries and there’s a decline, there’s a dropoff. But to continue to go out and be successful in all phases — special teams, offense and defense — is definitely a tribute, not just to the players, but the coaches as they continue to draw up schemes and put players in positions to make plays.”
Seau admits that it will take him a while to get acclimated to playing football again.
“The game of football is something that we respect for so many reasons. To be in football shape, it takes a lot,” said Seau, who had surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff in February. “For someone to come in here and say, ‘I am ready to play’ after being out of cleats for nine months, he would be lying to you.
“I have a lot of respect for a coach by the name of Bill Belichick, and I have a lot of love for the guys in this locker room,” said Seau. “That is the only reason I am here. He called me up and said he needed some help. Well, I am here, so let’s see what we can do.”
Tom Wilcox covers the Patriots for OT and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
This week's OT cover
OT beat writersMaureen Mullen brings you Red Sox information and insights.
Tom Wilcox covers the Patriots.
Scott Souza is all over the Celtics.
Danny Picard is on the ice with the Bruins.
Mike McDonald takes a look at the humorous side of Boston sports