Dolphins LB Seau on IR, vows to play again

Updated: November 25, 2005, 6:43 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

For a second straight year, Miami Dolphins linebacker Junior Seau will end the season on injured reserve. The 16-year veteran and future Hall of Fame candidate insisted, though, his celebrated career won't end that way.

Linebacker
Miami Dolphins

Profile
2005 SEASON STATISTICS
Tot Ast Solo FF Sack Int
36 18 18 0 1 0

Even if it means that he plays elsewhere in 2006.

"I'll be back," said Seau, whose season was plagued by Achilles tendon and calf injuries, and who has started only five of Miami's 10 games and appeared in just seven game. "It might not be [in Miami], but I'll be back."

Given that Seau turns 37 in January, that he no longer plays at the level that earned him 12 straight Pro Bowl berths, and that injuries have limited him to 15 appearances over the past two seasons, his return to the NFL certainly is problematic.

Dolphins coach Nick Saban has already begun to get younger defenders onto the field, Seau is due $2.1 million between bonuses and base salary for 2006, and his body has begun to break down. He appeared in only eight games in 2004 and finished the season on injured reserve with a torn pectoral muscle.

Because of injuries, Seau hasn't played a full 16-game season since 2001. In his first 13 seasons, all with the San Diego Chargers, he missed a total of nine games. With injury problems late in his career, and waning skills, many teams, including the Dolphins, may be reluctant to even bring Seau to training camp next summer.

His problems this year began in mid-September when he injured his calf and Achilles. He has played through the injuries, even with the knowledge that doing so might well rupture the Achilles, but the situation has now become unmanageable. An MRI examination after last week's game against Cleveland showed the injury has worsened and doctors apprised Seau he should shut things down for the year.

"We pushed it as far as we could," Seau said.

In his first four games, Seau posted 35 tackles, but has registered just eight tackles in the last three appearances. He emphasized that he still feels he can be a starter when healthy, noting that he was still productive this season despite "playing on one leg."

A first-round pick in the 1990 draft, the former Southern California star quickly became a dominant defender with the Chargers, and he made Pro Bowl appearances in each of his first 12 seasons in the league. San Diego released Seau after the '02 season and he signed with the Dolphins, where he started at both outside linebacker spots.

The absence of Seau, along with that of middle linebacker Zach Thomas, who will miss at least two weeks with a separated shoulder, means the Dolphins will have new starters at all three linebacker positions for Sunday's game against the Oakland Raiders. Rookie Channing Crowder will slide into Thomas' spot in the middle, Donnie Spragan assumes the strongside spot that Seau manned and Derrick Pope will make his first career start at weakside linebacker, where Crowder had been playing.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here Insider.