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Seymour absent as camp opens, starts holdout

FOXBORO, Mass. -- Three-time Pro Bowl defensive end Richard Seymour was not on the field for the opening practice of New
England's training camp on Friday, starting what could be a lengthy
holdout.

Seymour's absence would further erode the core of the Patriots'
defense.

A day earlier, veteran linebacker Ted Johnson unexpectedly
announced his retirement, citing a series of concussions and fear
of long-term damage. Last week, Tedy Bruschi said he would
sit out the entire 2005 season while he recovers from a mild
stroke, leaving New England without either of its starting inside
linebackers from last year's championship team.

Seymour, who wants to re-negotiate a contract that has two years remaining, also did not report to the team's June mini-camp.

Coach Bill Belichick said after Friday's practice that he was "just concentrating on the people that are here. Coach the guys that are here."

Seymour's teammates didn't pass judgment but said they want him with the team.

"We love Seymour," safety Rodney Harrison said. "We miss him.
We support him."

Quarterback Tom Brady said, "Richard's a great person. He's a
great teammate. Hopefully, he's here [soon]. I can't control it, so
I'm just going to go out there and worry about playing
quarterback."

Linebacker Mike Vrabel also refrained from taking a position on
Seymour's holdout.

"I don't really have any thoughts on Richard," he said. "I
can only comment on the people that are out here right now
practicing"

Drafted sixth overall in 2001 by the Patriots out of Georgia, he
was named to the Pro Bowl in two of his first three seasons. He
missed the last game of the regular season and the AFC playoffs
last year with a knee injury, but returned for the Super Bowl,
logging two tackles, including a sack of Philadelphia quarterback
Donovan McNabb.

Seymour signed his six-year, $14.3 million deal in 2001, his
rookie year.

Although holdouts are common in the NFL, the Patriots have
largely been spared in recent years. Several high-profile players
have signed below-market deals to remain with the team, including
Bruschi and quarterback Tom Brady.