SAN DIEGO -- Junior Seau ended his NFL career as only he
could, with a news conference that was part revival meeting and
part standup comedy. And he offered a straight-ahead reason why
he's leaving after 16 seasons, all but three spent with the
San Diego Chargers.
"It's pretty easy. When a team doesn't want you or need you,
retire buddy," the 12-time Pro Bowl linebacker said to laughter
from a crowd of about 300 at Chargers headquarters that included
family, friends, players and team executives.
Seau didn't pump his fists like he used to after practically
every tackle and sack during his remarkable career. He didn't cry,
either, although his voice cracked momentarily as he offered a
"Don't think you're going to come here and get a press
conference where I'm going to cry," he said. "Listen, I win. I'm
not going to cry. You know what? I won."
Seau was the live-wire leader of his hometown team from 1990
until being unceremoniously jettisoned in the spring of 2003. He
played three less-productive years with the Miami Dolphins, who
released him in March.
He was one of the NFL's greatest linebackers and helped the
Chargers reach their only Super Bowl.
Before the news conference, 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 [me]," Seau said. "They wanted me,
but they didn't need me. I'm not a player than can play by just
wanting to play the game. I'm a guy that needs to win, and they go
hand in hand."
During the news conference, Seau both quoted from scripture and
offered a message to the current players.
"You probably thought you were going to hear about football. It
ain't about football anymore, all right? I'm going to tell you the
truth: Respect the game. Love the game. Stop pushing the game away,
youth. Because you know what? The game is going to go anyway. The
game's going to leave you anyway. So why not embrace it? I loved
Then, he quipped: "I almost cried."
"So please, understand when I say this," Seau added, "I'm not
retiring. I am graduating. Today is my graduation day. Retirement
means that you'll just go ahead and live on your laurels and surf
all day in Oceanside. It ain't going to happen."
Seau was noncommittal about his future, whether it be coaching
"It could include evangelism or the 9 o'clock slot on Comedy
Central," said master of ceremonies Dick Enberg.
"That was his finest hour," said coach Marty Schottenheimer,
who fancies himself as a skilled orator. "He captivated
everybody." Schottenheimer coached against Seau for nine seasons
in Kansas City, then coached him in his final year in San Diego.
"He's one of a kind," said running back LaDainian Tomlinson,
who asked a serious question so his younger teammates could hear
how Seau prepared himself for games.
Seau ragged on long snapper David Binn for having an easy job,
noting that the 13-year veteran will break his record for most
games played with the Chargers.
Binn responded by asking, "Can we get our discount at Seau's
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.
Seau said he had no remorse he wasn't able to finish with the
Chargers. He mentioned players such as Marcus Allen, Ronnie Lott,
Joe Montana and Joe Namath, who didn't finish with their original
"That's the business of the game. I'm not the only one and I
won't be the last," he said.
"There's nobody that loved playing more than Junior," former
Chargers general manager Bobby Beathard said. "Any organization
should be as fortunate as the Chargers were to have Junior."
Seau grew up in suburban Oceanside, starred at Southern
California and was Beathard's first draft pick as Chargers GM,
taken fifth overall in 1990.
Seau knew only one speed -- as fast as possible.
"He brought something to the game that very few people have
brought to the game -- he made people around him better," Beathard
said. "He's got the passion that is unlike anybody else. He's just
incredible. Besides being a great athlete, it's the intangibles
that some guys have, but a good percentage don't have. He's unique
in that sense."
In helping the Chargers upset the Pittsburgh Steelers in the
1994 AFC championship game, Seau spread his 16 tackles from the
first play to the next-to-last one despite a pinched nerve in his
neck. His interceptions and fumble recoveries sometimes led to
reckless returns, and one of his wildest was a pickoff of
John Elway that saved a 37-34 win in the 1994 opener at Denver.
Seau, who used to refer to his teammates as "my players," will
be inducted into the Chargers Hall of Fame on Nov. 5.