Pats might be interested in bringing Seau back

With his competitive fires stoked again by this year's stint with the New England Patriots, 17-year veteran linebacker and likely future Hall of Fame member Junior Seau wants to return in 2007.

Seau, who turns 38 in mid-January, signed a one-year contract with the Patriots during training camp, less than a week after his retirement announcement at a news conference hosted by the San Diego Chargers, the team with which he entered the league. Seau started the first 11 games of the season at inside linebacker in the New England 3-4 front before suffering a season-ending broken right forearm.

In those 11 games, Seau registered 69 tackles, one sack and one pass defensed, playing principally on first and second downs.

"I'm going to be back," Seau told the San Diego Union-Tribune on Thursday. "I don't know which helmet I'll wear, but I'm definitely going to be back."

The 12-time Pro Bowl performer is eligible for unrestricted free agency in the spring and can sign with any team. It is not inconceivable, based on his performance this season and the team's situation at linebacker, that New England might be interested in bringing Seau back for another year.

In addition to being effective against the run, Seau was a positive influence in the New England locker room, and Patriots coach Bill Belichick places a high premium on such intangibles. The question remains, though, as to whether Seau can still play at a high level in 2007, and any team interested in him is apt to have concerns about his durability.

Seau has not played a full 16-game season since 2001. In his past four seasons, the former Southern California star, the Chargers' first-round choice in the 1990 draft, has averaged just 10.3 appearances because of injuries. In 2004-05, he totaled only 15 games with the Miami Dolphins.

The right arm injury that prematurely ended this season required surgery and the insertion of a plate to promote stability and healing, but Seau said his doctors anticipate no complications in his rehabilitation.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.