FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Defensive tackle Sealver Siliga has become a key player for the New England Patriots over the team's final five games. But things easily could have turned out differently and he might have been facing them in Sunday’s AFC Championship Game instead of playing for them.
Siliga had been with the Denver Broncos from 2011 through the end of training camp this year, and when Broncos defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson sustained a season-ending hip injury in a game against the Patriots on Nov. 24, the team expressed interest in bringing him back.
But the Patriots didn’t want to lose Siliga off their practice squad, so they blocked the move by promoting him to their active roster (the Broncos ended up signing Sione Fua).
“It could have went the other way,” Siliga acknowledged Wednesday. “It’s been a blessing because of the opportunity I’ve had. I’m glad it turned out the way it turned out.”
The Patriots are too, because Siliga has given them pretty solid play on the interior of the line, where they have been hit hard by injuries this year and were blown off the ball in the Nov. 24 game against the Broncos. Siliga's 6-foot-2, 325-pound frame is hard for opposing offensive linemen to move, and in a game Sunday where the Patriots figure to be lighter in the box against the run because of such an emphasis placed on the passing game, Siliga figures prominently in the team’s defensive game-plan.
“I think Sealver has really done a good job of trying to improve his fundamental technique and understanding of what we are doing,” defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said. “As he has gotten a better grip on some of those things, he has been able to be a little bit more productive.”
Siliga, who is averaging 49 defensive snaps per game in the Patriots’ last five contests, expressed excitement in facing the Broncos.
“It’s big for me, but at the end of the day, I just have to control my emotions,” he said, later adding that he knows the Broncos' interior offensive line well from having practiced against them.
As it turns out, the Broncos aren’t the only team still playing that Siliga has been a part of. He joined the NFL as an undrafted free agent with the San Francisco 49ers in 2011 and had spent time with the Seattle Seahawks earlier this year.
“It’s pretty crazy,” he said of having ties to all the remaining teams in the playoffs. “I’m just excited that out of those four teams, Bill Belichick gave me the opportunity to show off my skills and really show what I could do in the NFL. It’s a great feeling that I landed on this team.”
Siliga was asked what he learned from the experience of playing for the other teams.
“A blue-collar attitude,” he said. “It’s not easy being cut. I got cut from three of the top four teams. It thickened up my skin to keep pushing and working. Now I’m at where I am because they cut me and making me into who I am.”