Seau Is a Pro Bowl Staple

Thursday, February 7th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

HONOLULU (AP) _ Junior Seau feels old, and he likes it.

The veteran outside linebacker for the San Diego Chargers is looking forward to some rest during his 11th straight trip to the Pro Bowl _ and not just on the beach.

``The kids will be playing the game,'' he said of NFL stars like 24-year-old Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady.

``Junior and the rest of the seniors are going to be trying to sit on the bench as much as possible and allow the kids to run out there and have the opportunity we've enjoyed for so many years.''

It's been a little strange for Seau this time around, with many unfamiliar faces and AFC teammates who were in junior high or high school when he began in the NFL 12 years ago.

Plenty of players he used to line up against early in his career have left the league.

``It's so fun to see the new generation,'' said Seau, 33. ``I'm walking into the locker room and I'm walking into meetings and I don't know 75 percent of the players. You know you're getting old when they're coming up to you and asking you to take a photo.

``That's definitely respectable, and obviously a great honor. I don't take that for granted. It's special.''

His secret to the younger players is a simple one: Be consistent, work hard, come ready to compete every day.

First-time Pro Bowl lineman Alan Faneca of the Pittsburgh Steelers appreciates having a spot next to Seau in the locker room.

``His record speaks for him,'' said Faneca, a 25-year-old offensive guard. ``He's smart. He's the quarterback of the defense.''

Though exhausted from traveling from the Super Bowl in New Orleans to Disney World in Florida, then to Boston for a victory parade and then on to Honolulu, Brady expressed excitement for his first Pro Bowl. He looks forward to playing with Seau and others he has watched for years.

``This is his home field,'' Brady said of Aloha Stadium, the site of Saturday's game. ``He's played in more of these than anyone around.''

Seau has made it year after year despite playing for one of the worst teams in the NFL in recent years.

The Chargers have missed the playoffs six straight seasons, the second-longest drought in the NFL. They won just six games the last two years and are 23-57 since Bobby Ross, the only coach to get them to the Super Bowl, was forced out after the 1996 season.

Seau hopes they can make a turnaround under new coach Marty Schottenheimer, hired Jan. 29 to replace fired coach Mike Riley. Seau is convinced things are moving in a positive direction.

Schottenheimer is San Diego's fourth coach in six seasons.

``We look to get off on the right track with Marty,'' Seau said. ``Marty's going to be my last hope.''

For now, he will enjoy a fun finale to this season.

``You don't really shoot for it, 11 straight Pro Bowls,'' Seau said. ``I'm a person who's blessed to be part of this fraternity for 11 straight years. I'm not going to take this one for granted. This is definitely a special one for me, due to the fact it's hard to break that two-digit mark. For the most part, I stand here humbly.''

Besides Seau, the AFC squad has two other Pro Bowl players with 10 or more appearances. Baltimore Ravens free safety Rod Woodson is playing for the 10th time and Bruce Matthews of the Tennessee Titans is making his 14th appearance in 19 seasons.

For the NFC, St. Louis cornerback Aeneas Williams has the most Pro Bowl experience, playing this year for the seventh time.