Bill Belichick often doesn’t say much in media settings. Last October, he was asked about Richard Seymour, a player he traded away in 2009.
Belichick spoke 1,066 gushing words about Seymour. It started with a question about what made Seymour a special player.
“Everything,” Belichick said.
Seymour came to New England with the sixth overall pick of the 2001 NFL draft. The Patriots won a Super Bowl that season, the beginning of their dynasty. Seymour was a big part of the first phase of that dynasty on his way to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Belichick had been in the NFL for a long time when the Patriots got Seymour, and he had coached many great players. He said Seymour was “really unlike any other player that I had coached up to that point.”
“I just never really had anybody like that,” Belichick said. “He was very smart. He could do a lot of different things; game plans, pass rush plays, playing certain plays a certain way. That was all really pretty easy for him because the game came easy for him in terms of intelligence and anticipation and communication along the line.”
It takes a special player to get that kind of praise from the normally stoic Belichick. Seymour was special.
Richard Seymour helped start a dynasty
Other players through the Patriots’ dynasty have gotten more of the spotlight, but Seymour helped set the tone.
“We had a bond with teammates and they were like brothers, and we felt a sense of responsibility to one another,” Seymour told MassLive.com. “And, I think when you have a culture like that and it breeds success, and it breeds winning, that’s really what it’s all about.”
More than any intangibles, Seymour was a force on the field. His versatility along the defensive line was a key for the Patriots. His size and athleticism were unique. He was 6-foot-6, 317 pounds but agile enough to take a fumble recovery 68 yards for a touchdown against the Buffalo Bills in 2003.
When Belichick talked about Seymour, he referenced the defensive lineman making a key block on Troy Brown’s 85-yard punt return in a 2001 win over the Cleveland Browns. You won’t see many future Hall-of-Fame defensive linemen throwing key blocks on the punt return team.
“He was very, very athletic,” Belichick said.
Seymour made five straight Pro Bowls and was first-team All-Pro three times with the Patriots. And then his time in New England was suddenly over.
And then Seymour was traded to the Oakland Raiders for a first-round pick before the 2009 season, one of the many times the Patriots have moved on from a key veteran without much warning. Seymour did pretty well with the Raiders too.
Seymour had good years with the Raiders
Seymour played four seasons with the Raiders and made two Pro Bowls before retiring. He finished his career with seven Pro Bowls and 57.5 sacks.
Seymour could have held a grudge over being traded while he still had prime years left, but he said he never had a problem with Belichick.
“That’s just a part of the way the NFL works,” Seymour told USA Today in 2020. “So, it may have seemed like it was some tension or something, but in my mind, it’s no hard feelings.”
Because Seymour’s impact came from his consistent dominance and not eye-popping sack numbers, it took a few shots for him to get inducted into the Hall of Fame. As he was waiting for the call in 2019, he told Yahoo Sports’ Shalise Manza Young that he was proud of his football legacy.
“I think one thing that I’ve always said is that I wanted to be respected by the players I played against,” Seymour said. “When you’re kind of hanging out or at events, I have a lot of offensive linemen coming up to me and telling me I played the game the right way, I was one of their toughest competitors or I was the best they played against .
“When they say that, I feel like I’m already in the Hall of Fame because of that.”
Now he has a gold jacket to make it official.