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Latest job is tackled

Seau, 40, officially returns to Patriots

By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / October 15, 2009

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FOXBOROUGH - Proving he’s not ready to be put out to pasture, even after 19 NFL seasons, Junior Seau reported to Gillette Stadium yesterday and donned his old No. 55 jersey.

“Everyone asks if I’m eager and excited, well, I’m too old to be excited,’’ said the 40-year-old linebacker, who played in 31 games (16 starts) with the Patriots from 2006-08, serving as a team captain in 2007.

“I know the only way this is going to be exciting - to anyone - is if it works. The challenge is what we do from here on out. It’s time to go to work.

“Give me a helmet and let’s build a player that I can be this year. That’s all I ask.’’

Seau sampled a wide array of sporting experiences during his self-imposed exile from the league in taping his Versus TV show, “Sports Jobs with Junior Seau,’’ which will debut Dec. 2. He even survived a stomping by a 2,000-pound bull during his stint as a rodeo clown on the Pro Bull Riders tour.

Now the 12-time Pro Bowler will focus on bulldozing opposing ballcarriers for Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who declined to say whether he was planning to play Seau in Sunday’s home game against the Titans.

“It’s good to have Junior back,’’ Belichick said. “He brings a lot of energy and experience and toughness to our team. We’ve been talking about this for a little while and we’re glad we worked it out here in the last day or two and we’re glad to have him.

“We’ll just take it day to day. We don’t exactly know how things are going to work out this week, next week, or any other week.

“I’m sure he’ll contribute for us.’’

The team made room for Seau on the 53-man roster by releasing defensive lineman Terdell Sands.

“I trust the coach and the ownership and the coaches in this organization,’’ said Seau, “and I have a lot of love for the players in the locker room. That’s the reason why I wanted to come back to only one team.’’

Asked if he was concerned about his ability to perform at a high level, Seau said, “One thing I know is that you can’t coach courage - you can’t. I will go through the A and B gap until I break glass.

“I’m not afraid of whether or not I’m going to bring to the table a level that I had 20 years ago. That’s not going to happen. If I got to be a plumber today, I’ll be a plumber. Whatever Bill needs.

“I, basically in eight months, have been working out for a chance to make a choice, a chance I didn’t have control of; Bill had control of that. But the choice was to be prepared for that chance. So for eight months I have been training to receive a chance - and to have a choice - and here we are.’’

When Tom Brady showed up at the weight room at 6:45 a.m. yesterday, he found Seau already at work and in a full sweat.

“He hasn’t changed at all,’’ Brady said. “He brings a lot of energy to the team and excitement. Attitude is everything with Junior. He’s a great professional and he shows great leadership. And he’s a playmaker.’’

Seau’s mere presence yesterday seemed to energize the locker room, which had become a bit moribund after Sunday’s 20-17 overtime loss to the Broncos in Denver. Seau even schmoozed Derrick Burgess into giving him his old number (55) and switching to No. 53.

“Knowing Junior and knowing his skill set, I wouldn’t put anything past him,’’ said center Dan Koppen. “So he may be 40 in age, but he’s probably 20 at heart. He can still run around like a 20-year-old. I’m looking forward to seeing him out there, and what he brings, really, no one can match.’’

Nor could anyone match the experiences Seau had in taping his TV show, most notably his running with the bulls.

“That bull,’’ said Seau, “he came at me and I gave him a juke right and he looked at me and said, ‘Nuh-uh,’ and I gave him a juke left and the bull said, ‘I saw that one, too.

“I should’ve just done a [Tedy] Bruschi swim. But I didn’t have the right technique and I tried to eject, but he caught me. I was fortunate enough to get out of that, but it was definitely a moment in time that I will never forget.’’

Asked if his pratfall in the bull ring was staged for the cameras, Seau replied, “That had nothing to do with show biz. That was real. I have the bruises to show you.’’

It probably gave Seau an insight into what it’s like to be Brady on a bad day.

“Yeah, when everyone’s coming at you,’’ said the quarterback. “It’s probably similar to those bulls. Junior’s kind of crazy, though. That’s why he’s in the bull ring. Not many people would choose to do that, but Junior is one of them.’’

Not many 40-year-old linebackers would eschew a leisurely lifestyle in an idyllic setting on the beaches of San Diego to return to the cold environs of Foxborough to crack heads defending the A and B gaps. But Seau did.

“I love life challenges and I live for these moments,’’ Seau said. “This is a challenge. I can’t forecast what’s going to happen. Just give me a helmet and we’ll work on it.’’

Michael Vega can be reached at vega@globe.com.

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