Richard Seymour was one of the most accomplished defensive linemen in New England Patriots’ history. He was a five-time All-Pro, a seven-time Pro Bowler and a first-team choice to the 2000s’ all-decade team.
Now, of course, he’s one of 27 semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2018, and he’s there in his first year of eligibility … which should come as no surprise. Seymour was a marvelous player who dominated opponents.
But some of that attention stems from the team … and head coach … he served for most of his career, and that’s the New England Patriots and Bill Belichick. They made him their first-round draft pick in 2001, then moved him up and down the defensive line according to scheme and game plans — and the results speak for themselves: New England won Super Bowls in three of Seymour’s first four seasons there, with the defense the lynchpin to success.
Traded to Oakland after the 2008 season, Seymour never again went to the playoffs and retired in 2013. But while he spent his last four seasons there, it’s hard not to think of him as a New England Patriot — with the franchise naming him to its 50th anniversary team.
“So, what was it like playing for Bill Belichick?” he was asked on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast.
“For me,” he said, “I really enjoyed it because I always felt like I was getting the best information available. You could put that with your ability to execute, and you knew you were getting it done.
“I always had the upmost confidence because he was spot-on with everything he told us. Whatever he told us in the meeting he could come back and show it to you on film. So it was like balance and checks. He could always show us everything that was going to happen … or that needed to happen … and, if we did it, what would happen. And if we didn’t do it? We saw the results from it.
“Playing for him … it was something where I always just had the highest confidence in. As a player that’s what you always want. I don’t necessarily need the rah-rah coaches to get me motivated. I think I want to be self motivated. But I think I need the coaches that can critique not only the team but can be hard on me. And he didn’t mind telling or saying whatever needed to be said to any player on the team.
“So I just think it held everybody accountable, and that was a great start to my career– having coach Belichick not only to draft me (and) have the confidence to do that. Just playing in that system with him, I think that’s where it was at that time.”
Playing for Belichick had … and has … its obvious rewards. The Patriots are regulars in the playoffs, frequently reach conference championship games and participate in more Super Bowls than any other present-day team. But it can have its drawbacks, too, with Seymour’s numbers — particularly sacks — down because of the position(s) he manned for a head coach who demands selfless play.
Seymour said he didn’t resent it then, and he doesn’t resent it now.
“I just wanted to do those things at a very high level,” he said. “You can be creative. You can work a little bit on every guy across the line and try to find mismatches for the team and try to exploit those. We were a game-plan team, so wherever the team needed me that week … it’s just something as a competitor you have to want, and you have to want it in those moments. “