FOXBOROUGH - As the Patriots stretched inside the Dana-Farber Field House yesterday, a voice bellowed out words that echoed off the white dome covering the field.
It was a reminder of the Patriots' biggest news of the day, as defensive lineman Richard Seymour made his first appearance at a practice this season.
"When you get a guy that's on his level, a five-time Pro Bowler, an All-Pro guy, it speaks for itself," safety Rodney Harrison said before the workout. "His work ethic, his ability to do so many different things, it's going to help our defense."
The question now is how soon.
As of yesterday, the Patriots have 21 days to decide whether to add Seymour to the active roster or place him on season-ending injured reserve. Coach Bill Belichick said that the next few days will provide a better gauge of when Seymour might return to action.
"After we see him and see where he's at, then we'll get an idea," Belichick said. "But until a player gets out there and starts practicing, I think it's hard to picture exactly what it looks like because he hasn't been out there. Other guys have done a lot more reps than guys who've been on PUP."
Seymour, who was not available for comment, began the season on the physically unable to perform list after his knee did not respond as hoped to offseason surgery.
In his return to practice, he stretched with his teammates and went through positional agility drills in the time that media members were present. Wearing sweat pants, shoulder pads, and a helmet, Seymour raced through a bag drill in which linemen reach down and touch the bags as they move laterally. He then worked on exploding out of his stance with his fellow linemen, going from a three-point position with his hand on the ground to lifting up and punching forward.
His potential return would bolster a defensive line that started the season strong but has tailed off a bit. As part of the Patriots' 3-4 defense, the three linemen are called upon to help control blockers and win the battle at the line of scrimmage, which, if executed, helps contribute to a stingy run defense.
In the last two weeks, however, the Dolphins (6 yards per carry) and Cowboys (6.2) have had success on the ground, which is a result of several factors, one of which is play at the line of scrimmage. The Patriots went from No. 7 in the NFL in rushing average allowed two weeks ago to 24th, a drop from 3.6 yards to 4.4.
The 6-foot-6-inch, 310-pound Seymour could be the perfect prescription to curing those woes.
"To add a guy who has been a tremendous mainstay on our defensive line, a guy that's very big, physical, strong, can do it all - rush the passer, stop the run - just his presence along with his leadership will be tremendous for us," Harrison said. "Of course, I feel like he'll give us a spark, just like when we get any of our guys back."
In Seymour's absence, six-year veteran Jarvis Green has lined up most often at right defensive end. Third-year man Mike Wright has played in three games with one start, while first-year player Santonio Thomas has had modest contributions in four games.
Harrison, who is one of Seymour's closest friends on the team, has shared some of his own experiences about working his way back from a knee injury.
"Just being patient, understanding the big picture, and not getting frustrated, understanding that it's a day-to-day process, and not going too far ahead of yourself and getting frustrated," Harrison said.
"At times, it's easy to be frustrated because you want to be back on the field and you see your team winning without you. But I think there is a lot of football left. It's only seven games, we're going into our eighth game. We're going to need everyone down the stretch."
Harrison said Seymour has put himself in position to contribute, assuming there are no setbacks.
"He's positive. He's worked extremely hard," Harrison said. "He's been focused, some tough days and some good days, but more good days than bad days."
Mike Reiss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.