Back in the chase
No Pat relishes playoff opportunity more than Seau
Posted: Thursday January 10, 2008 2:42PM; Updated: Thursday January 10, 2008 4:51PM
It doesn't seem quite possible, but the record is the record, and it's right there in black and white. Junior Seau is in a position this week that he hasn't been in for 12 long years: Preparing to take part in an NFL playoff game.
He hasn't suited up in the postseason since the 1995 Chargers, at the time the defending AFC champions, were upset at home by the Indianapolis Colts in a first-round game played on New Year's Eve. How long ago was that? For a little perspective, it was the last month of Bill Belichick's head coaching tenure in Cleveland, more than two years before the Ryan Leaf era even began in San Diego, and five-plus years before the Chargers drafted a talented running back out of TCU named LaDainian Tomlinson.
In terms of a football career, it was a lifetime ago. Now in his 18th NFL season, less than 10 days shy of his 39th birthday, Seau has spent the last two-thirds of his likely Hall of Fame playing career trying to get back into a game that had single-elimination consequences. His countdown has shrunk to T-minus, two days before New England's AFC divisional round showdown with Jacksonville on Saturday night at Gillette Stadium.
"I've always dreamt to have another opportunity and another chance, and that's why I'm here,'' Seau said Wednesday. "When I signed here, I knew it was one more chance to win. But that's all it gave me, another chance. Right now we get another opportunity, and hopefully this will be the end of the journey.''
Playoff experience is stacked three deep in the New England locker room, but Seau represents a bit of a paradox. He's the team's elder statesman, and yet all six of his career playoff games came in the four-year span of 1992-95 in San Diego, in the first half of his 13 seasons as a Chargers linebacker. His one and only shot at the Super Bowl came in the 1994 season, when upstart San Diego got crushed by Steve Young and the 49ers, 49-26.
To this day, Seau recoils at the memory of that game, and of sitting in the airport the next day awaiting the flight home, long since branded a Super Bowl loser.