Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

The Inside Track | Q & A WITH JUNIOR SEAU

Seau Enjoys New Life in Dolphins' Fishbowl

August 15, 2003|Sam Farmer | Times Staff Writer

DAVIE, Fla. — Zach Thomas used to room with Junior Seau. Said hello to him every day.

Years later, they met.

"When I was in college [at Texas Tech], I had a signed poster of him up on my wall," said Thomas, the Pro Bowl middle linebacker for the Miami Dolphins. "My roommate's dad knew somebody in the San Diego organization, and he knew Junior was my favorite player, so he got it signed."

The inscription: "To Zach, Be your best."

The poster is long gone, but the sentiment is still there. Seau was traded to the Dolphins in April, after 13 seasons and 12 Pro Bowls with the San Diego Chargers, and now he's determined to prove Miami made the right move. He and Thomas have become close friends with a common goal of getting the Dolphins to the conference championship game -- and beyond -- for the first time since 1991.

Seau, who will make close to $4 million this season, is almost certainly bound for Canton. But he's not ready to turn on the cruise control. Stop by the Dolphin practice facility around 6 a.m. and see who's doing wind sprints. It's Seau charging up and down the field with his workout buddy, veteran defensive tackle Jeff Zgonina. The Chargers saw Seau as expendable and traded him to Miami, which already had outstanding defensive players in Thomas, defensive end Jason Taylor and cornerback Sam Madison, for a sixth-round choice in next year's draft. Seau thrived when the Chargers let him improvise.The Dolphins want to get the most out of him, yet they want him to play within their system. That's a challenge.

"All coaches love to have players do things that they don't have to coach," Dolphin Coach Dave Wannstedt said. "You don't want a robot out there. But there's a fine line between what a guy's doing to make plays and when is he hurting your kind of defense. I had several conversations about that with Junior when he first came in here. He understands that, and he's working within the defense. We're going to turn him loose, and he's going to make some plays."

*

Question: Junior, have you lost a step at 34?

Answer: I had ankle surgery in the off-season. Obviously, last year I was judged on playing on one ankle and that's fair. But, for the most part, the best thing I have is a knowledge of the game, a great feel for the game. I still have my athleticism. The more years you put into this league, you tend to lose a step. And when you lose a step, you've got to lean on your knowledge. But when you have both, it's special.

*

Q: You've been known as a freelancer throughout your career, someone who makes big plays but takes big risks. Does that label bother you?

A: Well, I see a lot of things differently. I see it quick.... It's just so inviting when I can look at a situation and know exactly where it's going.

*

Q: Before the snap?

A: Oh, yeah, pre-snap. Like today, we were playing situations, and I see where the ball's going, I know who's pulling, and I can easily shoot the gap and get in the backfield. But I'm trying to hold back on that right now. So I just tell my whole defense, "Listen, [guard Jamie] Nails is pulling, coming left." And we beat it up.

*

Q: What's the reaction of guys when that happens?

A: Nails is funny. He'll say, "Aw, man, would you leave me alone?" When you've been around, there's only so much you can do in certain situations and certain formations. Once you get the identity of an offensive scheme ... there's not much you can do that I haven't seen.

*

Q: Do things become simpler as the seasons go by? When you can predict what's coming, does it seem easy?

A: It is easy.... It really is. If you apply yourself in every situation, it becomes a game and not a business.

*

Q: What's with the purple necklace hanging in your locker?

A: It's all love from the D-linemen. They've given me a friendship necklace.

*

Q: But it's a disco ball.

A: It's, "Let's go play. Let's party." ... The funny thing about that is, they put those up on our lockers and Zach didn't know what it was, so I said, "Zach, don't even ask, because then it doesn't turn into a joke."

*

Q: Jon Gruden wanted you in Tampa Bay, right?

A: I love Gruden. He was the first one I talked to. Obviously ... it just didn't work out. I wanted to go to a quality team with players that are secure. That's what makes my transition easier. Players in this locker room, they all have resumes, and they know ... I'm not a threat to them and their limelight. I'm here to help them and we have one purpose, and that's to get a ring.

*

Q: Did you have to be careful not to step on toes?

A: You've got to watch your step; allow the nucleus to build and not stunt any growth that's already here. My goal is to blend in with them and then ... let the talent take over.

*

Q: You seem a lot happier now than you did a year ago. Are you?

A: Yes.... There's a buzz going around here. It's pretty positive. We know what we have here, and it could be something very special. We're excited to get it going.

*

Q: So what do you think of the L.A. Chargers? Is that going to happen?

A: It might.

*

Q: Do you think the Chargers are going to get a new stadium in San Diego?

A: No. San Diego can't afford it right now. People are a little [ticked] back there now.

*

Q: How many more years will you play?

A: Only time can tell. I look forward to playing two to three more years and enjoying the game. But I have to play at the level where I played in years previous.

*

Q: So you'll be, what, 80% of the player you were at your peak?

A: I want 90% or 95%. I think I can get there.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|