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PATRIOTS NOTEBOOK

Time not slowing down Seau

Veteran's production increases with workload

Email|Print| Text size + By Christopher L. Gasper
Globe Staff / December 21, 2007

FOXBOROUGH - Junior Seau joked that he knows he's old because the bass in the thumping music the younger players enjoy bothers his ears.

"My time has passed twice," said the 38-year-old Seau.

In radio parlance, the 18-year veteran is what they call "an oldie but a goodie." Pressed into a full-time role at inside linebacker after outside linebacker Rosevelt Colvin was placed on injured reserve Nov. 27, Seau's impact has increased along with his playing time. In last Sunday's 20-10 win over the New York Jets, Seau played 64 of 65 defensive snaps, including plays negated by penalties. He tied for the team high with nine tackles and had two sacks.

Seau is tied for fifth on the team in tackles with 65, and will be looking to boost that total Sunday when the Patriots host the Miami Dolphins, one of Seau's former teams.

"I think anybody that's watched Junior play, if you didn't know what his age was, you wouldn't say he's the oldest player on the team," said coach Bill Belichick. "He doesn't look like it. He doesn't act like it. His energy level is better than most . . . Physically, he looks a lot less than that. He doesn't look like an old man out there. He's not.

"I mean, it's past remarkable. It's rare. It's rare . . . It's hard to find examples where he's just not explosive, getting outrun, doesn't show quickness. He shows all of those things, and he shows them consistently. It's not like it's one play a year or one play a month. You see them on a weekly basis, and we see them out on the practice field."

Seau said he hasn't felt any additional wear and tear with his increased workload.

"It's basically the same thing that I've been doing for 18 years, and I'm surrounded by a great group of guys, so I don't really have to [do] more than what I need to do in the box," he said.

Prior to Colvin's injury, Seau was part of a three-man rotation at inside linebacker with Tedy Bruschi and Adalius Thomas, who moved outside to replace Colvin. Seau's main responsibility was as part of the third-down package. Seau, a 12-time Pro Bowler, said that's the biggest difference from his days as a sideline-to-sideline terror in San Diego.

"Before, it wasn't even a question. Have that guy, go forward," said Seau, who has three interceptions this season. "That's all it was. Kicking this Cadillac into reverse and covering wide receivers and, obviously, running backs is a big difference."

Seau is still looking for his first Super Bowl ring, but it's his love of the game that keeps him going.

"If you asked me eight years ago, it probably would be a different outlook in terms of me trying to scratch and claw to be the best linebacker, get the high salaries and the Pro Bowls and the accolades that come with it," Seau said. "I get up in the morning knowing that I have an opportunity to play the game of football. It's fun."

Good-looking reflection

The return to form of Richard Seymour last week was an encouraging development for the Patriots. The dominating defensive end looked like his old self against the Jets, after spending all of training camp and the first seven games of the season on the physically unable to perform list following knee surgery.

When asked if he was still working toward being 100 percent, Seymour replied, "Yeah."

But the good news is that Seymour's progress is starting to be reflected in his play. "I think that's with anyone, not just with my health," said Seymour. "Obviously, as you get healthier, especially dealing with legs, that's how you run around and trying to play to your strengths, try to be explosive, etc. As I get healthier, obviously, the better that I'll be able to play."

Extra credit

The Patriots have set a lot of records this season, but one that may have slipped under the radar belongs to Stephen Gostkowski, who has kicked 67 extra points this season. The old record was 66, set by Uwe von Schamann of the 1984 Miami Dolphins, who hold the record for touchdowns in a season (70).

"It's nothing that I did," said Gostkowski. "It's all about the offense and how they've been able to put up points. If it weren't for them, I wouldn't even be out on the field. That doesn't really even count as a record for me, but I'm just proud to be on this team and be able to be out there so much because we score so much."

In 1984, von Schamann missed four extra points. So far Gostkowski, with help from long-snapper Lonie Paxton and holder Chris Hanson, is perfect.

"Oh, don't jinx me. We still got two games to go," said Gostkowski. "Any time we're out there, we want to have a good operation with me, Lonie, and Chris. You see there have been times in the past where a guy has missed an extra point and it's cost the team and you don't ever want that to happen, especially on a play like that."

Added elements

The Patriots practiced in the snow at Gillette Stadium yesterday, although without safety Rodney Harrison and Thomas, who were held out because of a team decision. Also absent were tight end Kyle Brady, who injured an ankle against the Jets, and reserve guard Billy Yates (foot). Brady and Yates sat out for the second straight day. Guard Stephen Neal (shoulder) and tight end Benjamin Watson (ankle) had limited participation . . . Dolphins coach Cam Cameron still isn't ready to rule out Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Taylor for Sunday's game, but Taylor didn't practice for the second straight day because of a foot injury. According to the Miami Herald, Taylor was on crutches Monday. Taylor has played in 128 straight games, tying the Dolphins record set by Hall of Fame center Jim Langer. Keith Traylor (knee) also sat out a second straight day . . . With Sunday's forecast calling for rain, cornerback Ellis Hobbs said he won't change his approach on kickoff returns, but he will have heightened ball awareness. "Just get ready to react to anything," Hobbs said. "The ball might be heavier, wet, slippery. Tuck it tighter, keep your footing, and just keep running, man." . . . Troy Brown was wearing a black jersey as the team's Practice Player of the Week, awarded for playing the part of Jets wide receiver/quarterback Brad Smith.

Mike Reiss of the Globe staff contributed to this report; Christopher L. Gasper can be reached at cgasper@globe.com.

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