EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

September 18, 2008

NFL be warned: Seymour's back


On Pro Football

Hector Longo

FOXBORO — The opening day pocket-collapsing sack of Damon Huard.

The repeated pummeling of Jets aircraft carrier/tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson.

That trademark impish grin in the post-game locker room.

Oh, yeah, Richard Seymour is back. The five-time Pro-Bowl defensive tackle's return to prominence couldn't be more timely.

Tom Brady's absence has the Patriots relying on ball-control and defense. That, of course, starts with Seymour, Ty Warren and Vince Wilfork on the defensive line.

"It's business as usual, but it's quite a different business (without Brady)," said Seymour after his four-tackle, one-quarterback-pressure performance Sunday at the Meadowlands. "Defensively we want to show the world that we're pretty good on this side of the ball, too,"

In 11 postgame minutes Sunday, Seymour used the words "we" and "team" approximately 647 times. He didn't say "I" or "me" once.

"It's not about one man," insisted Seymour, who'll turn 29 on Oct. 6.

Arm and leg injuries slowed the 6-foot-6, 310-pounder to a crawl in 2007. Hidden in a sea of victories, Seymour's effort was questioned after Super Bowl XLII and the loss to the Giants.

Remember, he was a highly-paid first-round pick in 2001 then broke the bank in 2006 with a multi-year extension. Back in '06, USA Today reported that with bonuses, Seymour was the best-paid player in the game, raking in over $24.7 million that year, $24 million of which was his signing bonus.

In the two seasons since, Seymour had delivered just 5.5 sacks and just 32 other solo tackles. More significant than the numbers was the perception. Teams utilized double-teams elsewhere. They ran right at Seymour like no other time in his career.

Finally healthy, he's been the Seymour of old, anchoring a defense which has given up just 20 points in the first two games.

"This is the first time we've been in this situation as a long time," admitted Seymour. "We showed what we had as a football team."

Sunday, the Jets went at Seymour five times and ran elsewhere on 16 occasions.

A healthy Seymour is a productive Seymour.

"I'm not worried about playing the game of football. I just wasn't healthy last year," said Seymour, who remains as confident as he was in the championship years of 2001, '03 and '04. "The game's going to be there. I've come along and feel pretty good. Obviously, there's a lot more there."

The Jets saw it, and other teams will, too.

Seymour's resurgence hasn't been lost on his teammates.

"Richard is so versatile, a guy that when he's healthy, he's the best in the game," said safety Rodney Harrison. "To have him back healthy and just excited to play means a lot to us. He's definitely a bigtime playmaker."

Bill Belichick has a stake in this, too. That gigantic contract (4-year, $30-million extension through 2010) would be a killer if Seymour continued to languish as he did in 2007.

"The Kansas City play (his tackle on the final goal-line stand in Week 1) — that was a huge play for us down there," said Belichick. "Richard is off to a good start. He had a good camp and good off-season. He's been able to take more reps and I think he's a better fundamental player this year than he was."

Perfect timing.

Explosiveness, balance, strength, a nose for the football and a nasty streak, they are requisite traits for premiere NFL defensive linemen.

Richard Seymour is again proving that he has it all.

Hector Longo is an Eagle-Tribune sportswriter. E-mail him at hlongo@eagletribune.com.