FOXBORO, Mass. (AP) - Junior Seau is back with the New EnglandPatriots, coming out of retirement for a third time to sign acontract Tuesday for a 20th season as an NFL linebacker.
The signing of the 12-time Pro Bowl player was announced by Versus, thetelevision network on which Seau has a show, "Sports Jobs."
"I hope at some point he will be" with the Patriots, club ownerRobert Kraft said at the NFL owners meeting in Boston. "He's aunique individual. I'd love to have him part of our team for aslong as he wants to."
Seau, 40, came out of retirement last year to play the finalfour games with the Patriots after playing 27 games with them in2006 and 2007.
A week before New England began its 2009 season,
would be the only team he'd consider playing for andwould be willing to play up to six games. The Patriots (3-2) have11 games left.
"I'm very fortunate and honored to be involved with two classorganizations - the New England Patriots and Versus," Seau saidTuesday on the network's web site. "I want to thank the managementof both for making my return to the NFL with the New EnglandPatriots a reality."
On the Patriots, he can provide veteran leadership to a defensethat lost safety Rodney Harrison and linebacker Tedy Bruschi toretirement and linebacker Mike Vrabel and Richard Seymour intrades.
Seau also provides depth at inside linebacker, a position wherethe only backup, Eric Alexander, has played primarily on specialteams.
The announcement by Versus seemed to catch Patriots coach Bill
Belichick off guard on his regular Tuesday conference callwith reporters.
Did I miss it? Did we announce anything?" Belichick questionedPatriots assistant director of media relations Aaron Salkin whenasked to comment on the announced signing.
When told the team hadn't announced it, Belichick said, "Ididn't think so. ... We don't have anything to say about it."
Director of player personnel Nick Caserio said on his regularconference call immediately following Belichick's that the Patriotsgave Seau a physical and worked him out last week.
"He looked like he's kept himself in shape," Caserio said. "Wewanted to make sure, more than anything, from a physical standpointwith the medical information, that he was healthy."
Seau first retired in August 2006 after 13 seasons with the SanDiego Chargers and three with the Miami Dolphins.
"I'm not retiring. I am graduating. Today is my graduation day,"he said then. "Retirement means that you'll just go ahead and liveon your laurels and surf all day in Oceanside (Calif.). It ain'tgoing to happen."
Four days later, he signed with the Patriots.
Seau started 10 of the 11 games he played in 2006 beforebreaking his arm and four of his 16 in 2007.
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