Seau sees retirement as graduation to what's next
SAN DIEGO » The Seau punch has finally run out of juice.
Junior Seau retired from the NFL yesterday after 13 seasons as the live-wire leader of his hometown San Diego Chargers and three less-productive years with the Miami Dolphins.
Seau celebrated practically every tackle and sack with a trademark fist pump during a career in which he established himself as one of the NFL's greatest linebackers and helped San Diego reach its only Super Bowl. During his best years he seemed to cover more turf than a groundskeeper's tarp, and was rewarded with 12 Pro Bowl selections.
"It's a great day," Seau told a group of beat writers an hour before his farewell news conference at Chargers headquarters.
"I don't look at it as a retirement. I look at it as a graduation. I'm graduating to wherever I'm going to go to next. I'm the one that got the true gift, the true gift of understanding what actually transpires between the lines."
Seau, 37, said he feels fine after injuries cut short his last two seasons with Miami.
"I'm healthy, I can play and there are teams out there that had interest, but they just didn't need," Seau said. "They wanted me, but they didn't need me. I'm not a player that can play by just wanting to play the game. I'm a guy that needs to win, and they go hand in hand."
Seau didn't go out the way he always figured he would -- as a Charger. The team wasn't able to clear a roster spot to allow him to sign a one-day contract before retiring.
The Chargers unemotionally jettisoned their most emotional player in 2003 because he was getting older and a step slower. That spring, the team informed his agent that he was free to shop for a trade.
When Seau held a news conference to discuss the end of his Chargers career, it was at his restaurant a few miles from Qualcomm Stadium. His pride was clearly bruised.
"I never saw myself wearing another jersey," Seau said that day.
When a fan then asked him to do his trademark fist pump, Seau replied: "You want to see the Seau punch? Right now it's out of batteries."
The Dolphins got him for a fifth-round pick in the 2004 draft.