Patriots' Seymour rises to top of class

Posted: Friday, October 24, 2003

FOXBORO, Mass. Richard Seymour shoved forward, raised his arm and slapped a Miami field-goal attempt that could have beaten New England.

One week earlier, the 6-foot-6 lineman deflected two New York Giants passes that were intercepted and tipped another field-goal try.

Add that to a Super Bowl title in his first year, a Pro Bowl spot in his second and a team captain position in his third, and he has emerged as one of the NFL's top defensive linemen.

''Like I told him, man, nobody can stop him but him,'' Patriots defensive end Bobby Hamilton said.

''I knew that,'' Seymour said with an embarrassed smile and not a trace of arrogance.

Sure the Patriots are 5-2 and lead the AFC East in his third season, but, he says in his soft voice, so far they only have five wins in a 16-game season.

So what if Cleveland coach Butch Davis, who must figure out how to protect his quarterback from Seymour on Sunday, calls him ''one of the league's up-and-coming superstars in the defensive line.''

Seymour keeps doing what got him to that point studying film, working out and deflecting attention.

''I don't really like to talk about myself a whole lot,'' he said, almost apologetically.

He's given others plenty to discuss in his last three games, playing both end and tackle.

He sacked Steve McNair during the final drive of a 38-30 win over Tennessee, then got his hand on two Kerry Collins passes in a 17-6 win over the Giants.

But none of that went to his head.

''My philosophy is, you never get too high. You never get too low. Always be consistent,'' Seymour said. ''You're only as good as your last game.''

OK, then. Here's what he did in his last game, a 19-13 overtime win in Miami.

On the first play after the two-minute warning in the fourth quarter, Seymour blocked Olindo Mare's 36-yard field goal attempt. In overtime, he tackled Ricky Williams for gains of 1 and 2 yards before Mare's 35-yard attempt went wide.

The Patriots won on an 82-yard pass play between Tom Brady and Troy Brown, ending a 13-game losing streak in September and October in Miami.

''He continues to get better and better,'' said offensive tackle Matt Light, the Patriots second pick in 2001. ''There's not a whole lot of things you can stop Richard from doing.''

The Patriots knew Seymour had potential when they took him with the sixth pick in 2001 out of Georgia. As a rookie, he started just 10 regular-season games but sacked Kurt Warner in the Super Bowl win over St. Louis. Last year, he shared the team lead with 5 1/2 sacks, blocked two field-goal attempts and intercepted a pass. This year, he was named a defensive captain.

''He's a Pro Bowl player and if they put that tag on you, you don't want to let anybody down,'' Hamilton said. ''Richard's not really an outspoken guy, cussing people out. He just goes out there and leads by example.''

On a team with solid veterans on the defensive line, Seymour had time to adjust to the NFL and ease into a leadership role.

''If he continues to keep a level head, he'll be fine,'' said defensive end Anthony Pleasant, a 14-year veteran.

He's done that despite a rash of injuries to defensive players.

''A lot of guys tend to go out and try to make things happen,'' Seymour said. ''I just try to concentrate on taking care of my business, and if everybody does that, I think we'll be fine.''

His business is doing it all. He pressures passers and has three sacks. He stops runners and is part of the reason the Patriots have allowed no 100-yard rushers in seven games after allowing eight last year.

He even was named the AFC's special teams player of the week for last Sunday's performance.

''He's shown from day one when he got here the potential that he had,'' Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi said. ''It's nice to see someone with that potential really taking it to the next level.''

That makes Seymour a target for offensive linemen who double team him, hoping to open holes and earn compliments for overcoming one of the best.

''The higher you get up the mountain, the harder the wind blows and the more people are trying to knock you off,'' he said.

So forget about the Super Bowl, the Pro Bowl, the captain's job and those blocked kicks. They're all just memories to Seymour.

''I try to wipe the slate clean,'' he said. ''Until I get to that level where I'm considered the best or where I feel like I'm the best, then I'm going to continue to work.

''And when I get there, I have to continue to work because everybody's still going to be coming at me.''

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