FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Oakland Raiders coach Hue Jackson has no regrets regarding his team’s first-round draft pick this year. After all, what’s not to like about a 10-year veteran with three Super Bowl rings and six trips to the Pro Bowl?
“Richard Seymour is everything that we thought he would be and a little bit more,” Jackson said on a conference call Wednesday. “I tell everybody, he was our first-round draft pick this past year. I’m very happy about what happened as far as the trade to here and he’s playing well for us.”
The New England Patriots also have no qualms with the controversial 2009 preseason deal that sent Seymour to the Raiders for their first-round pick in April’s draft. Although facing Oakland’s 310-pound defensive tackle for the first time on Sunday poses a formidable yet faintly familiar test.
“This is the first time outside of the thousands of practices that we’ve run into each other,” said Patriots offensive tackle Matt Light, drafted in 2001 by New England 42 picks after Seymour. “I think it’s going to be a dogfight. He knows a lot about the guys that we have up front, so I’m sure he’s looking forward to it as well.”
The Patriots stunned their fans by sending the then-eight-year veteran to the Raiders on Sept. 6, 2009, one week before the season opener. Entering the final season of his contract at the time, Seymour refused to report to the Raiders in the ensuing days, reportedly perturbed by the trade.
When he did make an appearance in Oakland’s first game, though, he was back to his scary self, recording six tackles and two sacks on the way to 47 tackles and four sacks on the year.
Reflecting on his time in New England, Seymour said on a conference call, can wait until retirement.
“That chapter’s closed and over and done with,” he said. “I definitely understand I’m on the back nine right now, but I’m looking to finish strong.”
He certainly knows how to start strong.
Now in his third season donning the silver and black, Seymour has 10 tackles and 2.5 sacks, helping lead the Raiders to a 2-1 mark.
“He’s a tough, hard-nosed football player that loves the game and you can see that by the way he plays,” said New England quarterback Tom Brady, Seymour’s teammate for the duration of his Patriots career. “He has high expectations for himself, he really gets after the quarterback, he plays the run well, he’s obviously a leader in that defensive front there and when he gets going, they all get going. That’s the thing, they really rally around him.
“When he makes his plays, then they all start making plays.”
That’s what worries the Patriots (2-1).
Set to turn 32 next week, Seymour doesn’t seem to have lost a step, something many expected from the former New England captain. In fact, his second season in Oakland was better than his first, collecting 48 tackles and 5.5 sacks in just 13 games.
The Raiders organization seems to believe Seymour’s not finished yet, either, signing him to a two-year, $30 million contract extension in February, at the time making him the highest paid defensive player in the league. He rewarded the franchise with three solo tackles and a pair of sacks in the Raiders’ season-opening win over the Broncos.
“Obviously, he came from (New England), has done a great job here of being, one, a pro, number two, mentoring our players and making them understand what it takes to be the best they can be,” Jackson said. “He’s been tremendous to our staff because he’s a leader of men and he understands what it takes to get this job done week in and week out. So he’s been unbelievable for our organization.”
Brian Waters, no stranger to Oakland after playing 11 seasons in Kansas City before joining New England earlier this month, faced Seymour three times in the past two years. He believes Seymour could have benefited more from playing his entire career in the Raiders’ fierce 4-3 system.
“If he had played in a 4-3 system his entire career,” Waters said, “we’d probably be talking about” Seymour being one of the best defensive lineman ever.
Admittedly humbled and honored by the comment, Seymour stressed his all-around ability, saying he didn’t set out to be stronger in one scheme or another.
“When they speak of 3-4 defensive ends, I want my name to come up. When they speak of 4-3 defensive tackles, I’m trying to make my mark there as well,” he said. “Wherever I’m at, I just want to be the best at doing what I do.”
To Jackson, he already is.
“I think he is one of the best defensive tackles ever,” Jackson said. “This guy is as good as there is in football. I’m just so excited he’s here playing for us and we don’t have to play against him.”
That’s Light and the rest of the offensive line’s problem now.
“Richard’s just one of those guys that he’s got multiple moves, he plays with a lot of strength and he’s very disruptive,” Light said. “Richard’s always been the guy that is playing to the whistle and real physical in everything that he does.
“He’s a smart player and I’m sure he’s one of the guys that really keeps everybody in line.”