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2002 Season

Click here for entire Bruschi Article Archive



Versatile Bruschi is making noise

08/01/2002 BY TOM E. CURRAN
Journal Sports Writer


SMITHFIELD -- He's traded his brass knuckles for a briefcase, turned in his lead pipe and picked up his saxophone. Tedy Bruschi, the one-time project, is now the projected starter at middle linebacker for the world champion New England Patriots.


His six-year makeover is complete. And yet, Bruschi is the same. Which is to say, he's still very different

.
How different? First off, he's a 6-foot-1, 245-pound middle linebacker, which makes him like a muskrat in a room full of mastodons.


Second, this is a guy who works as his own agent. Not unheard of, but still pretty unusual. (And he's done a reasonably good job at it so far, evidenced by his three-year, $4.6 million contract that he worked out last fall.)


And can you name another NFL player who's played alto sax at Symphony Hall in Boston as Bruschi did this offseason? OK, stop thinking. You can't. He loves special teams, doesn't suffer fools gladly and still plays with the same maniacal edge he always has (an edge that spawned the memorable pro-Bruschi banner, "Full tilt. Full time.").


"When I first met Tedy, I thought he was a little wacky myself," fellow middle linebacker Ted Johnson said. "But he's not always like that. That's just how he is on the field."


These days, the 29-year-old Bruschi's importance to the Patriots is rarely undersold. People may not know the specifics, like the fact that Bruschi's first start at middle linebacker came against New Orleans and the team won every single game the rest of the way, but they know he played damn well.


But as he settles in as a mainstay, the road he rode to get here shouldn't be overlooked.


Bill Belichick was coaching the secondary for the Patriots when Bruschi was drafted by Bill Parcells in 1996.


"(Bruschi's development) probably has surprised me a little bit because Tedy (always played defensive line) at Arizona and . . . we drafted him as a linebacker," Belichick said yesterday. "He led the Pac-10 in sacks, but he was a defensive tackle. The thing about Tedy that's enabled him to be so successful is that he is just a smart football player. Doesn't matter whether it's punt return, punt protection, middle linebacker, goal line, whatever the situation is, he picks it up quickly. He understands what to do, what the scheme of the defense is, and then he reads and reacts pretty quickly as well. That's what enabled him (to make the change)."


That and good vision.


"I see how big those offensive tackles and guards," Bruschi laughed. "Actually, it's been the toughest thing I had to do was making the transition from putting my hand down in the dirt in college, then coming here and learning linebacker.


"But I was a realist. I came here and saw the Willie McGinests and Chris Slades -- their size, their length, the body type you need to be an edge rusher -- and I saw (his own more compact body type) so I knew I had to change myself as a player."


It came in fits and starts. There were weeks Bruschi made big plays. There were others he clubbed guys out of bounds or after the whistle. But it all fell together.


And what Bruschi has done is rare. Belichick mentioned former Giants standout Harry Carson as a player who made a switch similar to the one Bruschi made, but said there aren't many other examples.


"To be able to read and react as quickly as he does is a little bit unusual," Belichick said of Bruschi. "You don't see many guys who can make the conversion. He is not a defensive lineman playing linebacker. He's a linebacker."


And one who was reared on the importance of versatility.


"My mom did a good job with me," said Bruschi, a Sacramento-area native. "She got me into things that weren't normal for a person like me. I was always an aggressive guy and she threw me in the choir, she threw me in the band. She said, 'Tedy, I wanted to make sure you're well-rounded.'


Well-rounded enough that, this spring, Bruschi was asked to play "Fizzwater" on alto sax at a Symphony Hall benefit concert this past spring.


"I like that I can say football is not all I am," he said proudly.


He has a wife and two young sons. He's his own agent, his own man and he tries not to let himself forget that things have gone very well so far.


"I (thank God) every night," he said. "I don't talk about (his faith) a lot but I've got a beautiful family, the career's gone well, I'm on a team that I'm happy with, one that has a great bunch of guys on it."


As Belichick said yesterday, "You would like to have 53 Tedy Bruschi's, but it's just unrealistic."


Unrealistic, because there is no assembly line where they churn out these kinds of guys. Even if he was 5-7, 145 pounds, Tedy Bruschi would still stand out.
"He's a quiet normal guy, with a couple kids and a great wife," said Johnson. "But he definitely sees the world a little differently than the rest of us. Mostly, he's just having fun."



 

Football; Hole in the middle; Bruschi's injury leaves void
MICHAEL FELGER
Boston Herald
Sunday,  August 25, 2002


FOXBORO -- Tedy Bruschi came to the rescue of the Patriots defense last season. Now it could be Ted Johnson's turn.

Bruschi suffered a sprained right knee ligament during Friday's 23-3 preseason victory over Carolina. Full results of an MRI were not revealed yesterday, so it's not known exactly how long the Pats starting middle linebacker will be out, although it figures to be at least two weeks and perhaps more.

If Bruschi suffered a low-grade sprain of his MCL, then he could be back in time for the Pats' season-opener against Pittsburgh on Sept. 9. If it's an MCL tear, or if there's damage to his ACL, then the diagnosis becomes more dire.

For now, Bruschi's absence leaves a big hole in the middle of the Pats' 4-3 defense, one that will be filled by Johnson.

While Johnson missed the last two exhibitions as he continues to recover from a concussion suffered two weeks ago, he'll be in the lineup for the Pats' final exhibition game Thursday at Washington.

"We were just being cautious," said Johnson. "It looks like I'll be getting in some good time this week."

It was an unfortunate turn of events for the hard-working and popular Bruschi, who suffered the injury after crashing into Tebucky Jones on a first-quarter pass play.

Last season, after injuries to Johnson and Bryan Cox, Bruschi moved to middle linebacker from his weak-side spot and solidified the Pats' 4-3 defense. Bruschi played so well during the Super Bowl run that he retained the job over Johnson this summer.

Now Bruschi will have to fight his way back after going down in a preseason game. Bruschi was asked if it was frustrating getting injured in a game that meant nothing.

"I'd be a lot more upset if it were the fourth preseason game than the third preseason game," he said. "With one more week left maybe I can get myself ready for the opener. But I've just got to sit tight. I haven't really tested it, so I don't know. But I feel I'll be all right."

Johnson knows all about fighting back into the lineup. Injuries to both his biceps, his hip and knee have caused him to miss 21 games since 1998. Johnson knows all too well that what happened to Bruschi is part of NFL life.

"It's always a mental battle," said Johnson. "And I've made peace with it. However it unfolds is what happens. You just learn to go with it. Whatever. But I'm sure he'll be ready for the opener."

While Bruschi and Johnson have both been productive over their careers, they are totally different types of linebackers. Bruschi (a bit undersized at 6-foot-1, 245 pounds) uses his quickness and instincts to snuff out plays, but he won't do much damage taking on blockers. Johnson, on the other hand, is a classic run-snuffer who can dominate at the point of attack.

Johnson may be the Pats' best pure linebacker. He just hasn't been on the field enough over the past three years to prove it.

Coach Bill Belichick has tinkered with 3-4 and 4-3 alignments since he arrived in New England two years ago, although the past two weeks have seen the Pats stick primarily with a base 4-3 alignment. Johnson hopes it stays that way.

The Pats also have been without veteran outside linebacker Roman Phifer the past two games, although his leg injury is not considered serious.

The presence of veteran safety Victor Green also has altered the look of the defense, allowing strong safety Lawyer Milloy to play up near the line of scrimmage like a linebacker. The look was effective Friday night, as Milloy finished with six tackles and a sack.

"With Victor we can do some things and we can tinker with some things," said Bruschi. "For the third preseason game, that looked pretty good."




 

PATRIOTS NOTEBOOK
Bruschi hopeful on knee status
By Nick Cafardo, Globe Staff, 8/25/2002


FOXBOROUGH - Tedy Bruschi, who was scheduled for an MRI yesterday, said he had a feeling that the right knee he banged up late in the first quarter of Friday's 23-3 win over the Carolina Panthers was only bruised or sprained.

The fact that he was up and about, walking, though with a limp, seemed to be a good sign. He had a rubber brace around the knee.

''I feel like it's going to be all right,'' said Bruschi. ''I keep telling myself that. The doctor wants to see the pictures first. Once I can confirm that with him, I can give you more info.'

Even if there is something wrong, he believes he has enough time before the opener (Sept. 9 against Pittsburgh) to heal.

''I'd feel more frustrated if it was the fourth preseason game,'' said Bruschi. ''This will get it better. It gives me time for Pittsburgh.''

The veteran said he can tell whether he's seriously injured.

''I think when you've had certain injuries, you have your little leg tests, you try certain things,'' he said. ''You pretty much know when you're going to be all right or when you're not going to be all right. I think with this one, I'm going to be all right.''




Injury not likely to bring Bruschi to his knees
08/25/2002
BY TOM E. CURRAN
Journal Sports Writer


FOXBORO -- Linebacker Tedy Bruschi should be OK before too long after getting the inside of his right knee whipped by teammate Tebucky Jones  Friday night. Bruschi, who was down for a couple of minutes but left the field under his own power, said yesterday, "You have your little leg test that you do to see if you'll be all right or not be all right. I think I'm going to be all right."

Bruschi was scheduled to have an MRI yesterday afternoon. Nothing is certain until the imaging is done, but Bruschi already seemed to be gearing up for the September 9 opener. "This would have been frustrating if it happened in the fourth preseason game," he said.

 



 


Arizona Daily Star 08/25/02
SUNDAY SPECIAL: TEDY BRUSCHI
'Full tilt, full time'
By Greg Hansen

 
FOXBORO, Mass. - It is approaching 12:15 a.m. in the New England Patriots' vast dressing room at Gillette Stadium. The cubicle immediately next to the entryway has been empty since the game ended 45 minutes earlier. Nonetheless, about 10 reporters stand idly by a chair labeled No. 54.

All but one of the Patriots have showered, dressed and gone to "The Bubble," the team's indoor practice facility that doubles as a post-game party retreat.
 
The vigil continues until 12:25 when Tedy Bruschi emerges from the medical treatment center. He is hobbling on his right leg. He is not happy.

"All I can tell you guys," he says to the assembled media, "is that they're going to take an MRI (Saturday), and I hope to be ready for the opener."
 
This is a rare Bruschi pose. Grimness. He is the most valued quote in the Patriots locker room, the most candid and the most accessible. But in the early minutes of Saturday morning, he can't be sure if he'll need surgery or aspirin.

He continues to dress, surrounded by voices who want more information. He turns his back to the crowd and looks at the photograph of his two young sons, Rex and Tedy Jr., and pulls a red sweatshirt over his head. The questions persist. What's your gut feeling? How did it happen? What time will you take the MRI?

Tedy Bruschi is news here.

"Fellas," he says, "my mind-set is to stay healthy, and that's it."

He has already phoned his wife, Heidi, a former UA and Sahuaro High School volleyball standout, in an attempt to assure her that what she saw in the first quarter of a 23-3 victory over Carolina is not as bad as it looked.

But there is great concern, anyway.

When did the irrepressible Tedy Bruschi last lie motionless on the turf, his face covered with pain? The prospect of losing their starting middle linebacker has the Super Bowl champion Patriots nervous. "Gotta have that Energizer bunny," says running back Antowain Smith. "They won't get him out of (the lineup) that easily."
 
Tedy Bruschi has a fan club here, complete with its Web site. Another group brews a special beer in his honor each season. This year's batch: Bruschi Brew VII, a tribute to his seven seasons as a Patriot. The august Boston Globe on Saturday used the adjective "popular" before his name. The only banner hanging from the stands at Gillette Stadium on Friday said: 54: FULL TILT. FULL TIME. The banner is a tribute to his much-publicized quote, carried in all of the New England dailies. The only way he plays football is "full tilt, full time."

Bruschi calls defensive signals for the Patriots, plays superbly on kickoff, punt and field goal units, plays a saxophone at Symphony Hall in Boston, and is in the first of a three-year, $4.6 million contract. This happy place has no room for a bum knee. Bruschi is in his prime. This is no time for him to sustain the first serious injury of his football career.

The Patriots' dour coach, Bill Belichick becomes immediately dourless when asked about the man more responsible for Arizona's Desert Swarm defense than anyone else. "You would like to have 53 Tedy Bruschis," he says, "but it's just unrealistic."
 
There is some karma involved. Bruschi's first of nine starts in the 2001 season came at midseason. Thereafter, the Patriots went 9-0 and won the Super Bowl. He is no longer strictly a hustle-guy, an undersized linebacker with the body of a college pass-rusher. He is on the edge of stardom.
 
"The thing about Tedy that's enabled him to be so successful is that he is just a smart football player," Belichick told reporters a week ago. "Doesn't matter whether it's punt return, punt protection, middle linebacker, goal line, whatever the situation, he picks it up quickly. He understands and he reacts quickly."
 
The Patriots have seen the same things in Bruschi that former UA coach Dick Tomey saw at Camp Cochise in August 1991.

"The first day of practice, Tedy impressed me more than any first-year player I ever saw," Tomey said then. "It was his quickness and his youthful exuberance and his fire and temperament. He has adjusted to college football quicker than any player I have ever seen. He's going to be a beauty."

Indeed, Bruschi has become a beaut.

He's 29 now, with homes in North Attleboro, Mass., and Tucson. He continues to share the NCAA career sack record he tied at Arizona in 1995 (no one has since reached 50), and he keeps an Arizona cap on a shelf above his Patriots uniform. If he can avoid serious injuries, he could play in the NFL for another six to eight years. He could make $10 million to $20 million more.

"I'm glad I've been as flexible as I've been a lot of times," he says before leaving the locker room early Saturday morning. "One of my biggest strengths is my intelligence and that's why I've gotten this far. I've got the best of both worlds here. I can play the game I love, and in the off-season, I can spend time at the little place we have in Tucson, where Heidi's family lives, and with my family in Las Vegas."

Saturday afternoon, Belichick announced that Bruschi's knee injury was "nothing dramatic." The Patriots' star linebacker is apt to skip the final preseason game Thursday and be on the field for the season opener Sept. 8. Bruschi was all smiles again.
 
Maybe it's not the Red Sox beating the hated Yankees, but in New England , when Tedy Bruschi is smiling, the Patriots are, too.

Bruschi blocks talk on knee injury
Patriots Notebook/by Kevin Mannix

Tuesday, August 27, 2002

 

FOXBORO - Tedy Bruschi looked fine as he walked through the Patriots' locker room yesterday. No crutches, no support sleeves on his ``bruised'' right knee, no limp.


    No information either.

 

``All I can really tell you is that I'm doing treatment three times a day to get back on the field,'' said the veteran Patriots linebacker whose knee was injured during a collision with teammate Tebucky Jones early in a 23-3 exhibition victory over the Carolina Panthers on Friday night.

    How about the MRI test he took to determine if there was any structural damage to the knee?

 

    ``I can't read those things,'' Bruschi replied.

 

    Well, did the doctors who can read them give him any indication about the severity of the injury?

 

    ``All I can say,'' Bruschi said with a smile, ``is that the doctors are reading it. You know the way we do things around here. All I can say is that I'm getting three treatments a day.''

 

    Well , then, are you optimistic that you'll be in the starting lineup against Pittsburgh on Sept. 9?

 

    After hesitating a second, Bruschi responded: ``I don't know. I can't answer that. If I do, it means I have a little more knowledge about my knee than I have.''

 

    His inability to project himself into the opening game lineup is not a good thing. Ted Johnson missed the last two games because of a concussion. Ryan Phillips was waived. Larry Izzo has been a kicking game specialist. That leaves the frequently cut Ula Tuitele as the likely starter for the final preseason game Thursday in Washington.

 

    But from Bruschi's vantage point, that's not a bad thing.

 

    ``Out of all the linebackers, he's had the best camp,'' Bruschi said. ``He's really improved.''

 

    After taking over for Bruschi early in the first quarter, the 6-foot-1, 255-pound Colorado State product played through the third quarter and finished with a team-high 11 tackles.

 

    Though there were times when Tuitele looked like a kindergarten teacher during a fire drill, waving his arms wildly and jumping around, Bruschi pointed out that his teammate was just doing what he was supposed to do.

 

    ``He was communicating with the outside linebackers,'' Bruschi said. ``We had a couple of busts on assignments and alignments, and Ula was trying to fix them.''  Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who has released Tuitele six times in the last two years, only to sign him seven times, has seen a big improvement in Tuitele's play

.

     ``He's been productive,'' Belichick said. ``He's gotten some oportunities and he's really taken advantage of them.''


Bruschi among minor injury concerns
Patriots Notebook/by Michael Felger
Sunday, September 1, 2002

FOXBORO - One of the most remarkable elements of the Patriots' Super Bowl run last season was the overall health of the team down the stretch. For much of December and into January, the team's injury list was virtually barren.

 

    It remains to be seen if the Pats will enter 2002 the way they ended 2001.

 

    While there are no major injuries afflicting the roster, there are a few issues to keep an eye on as the Patriots prepare for their season-opener Sept. 9 against Pittsburgh at Gillette Stadium.

 

    Foremost among them is the status of starting middle linebacker Tedy Bruschi, who suffered a sprained right knee ligament in the Pats' preseason game against Carolina on Aug. 23.

 

    The injury was expected to keep Bruschi out at least two weeks, which gave him a chance to return for the Steelers game if he recovered well. Bruschi did not practice last week before sitting out the preseason finale at Washington. However, Bruschi did continue to run and work out. If Bruschi isn't ready for the Steelers, he doesn't figure to be out too much longer.

 

    Guard/center Damien Woody also missed the last two preseason games with a shoulder injury, although it's not thought to be serious. He dressed for the Redskins game but didn't play.

 

    Tight end Cam Cleeland experienced tightness in his leg muscles last week and didn't travel to Washington. Coach Bill Belichick expressed optimism that he would be back on the field next week.

 

Hitting The High Notes
BRUSCHI PLAYS A TUNE ON THE OPPOSITION
September 4, 2002
By ALAN GREENBERG, Courant Staff Writer

FOXBORO, Mass. - Whether singing in the chorus, playing percussion on the football field, or saxophone, trombone, trumpet or clarinet in the school band, Tedy Bruschi's body has always been his instrument.

    But the low note came at his first NFL camp six years ago, when he realized his mission, and he'd better decide to accept it, was something he never wanted to be - an NFL linebacker.

    He wanted to be a down lineman, a pass-rusher, as he was at the University of Arizona, where he tied Derrick Thomas' NCAA record with 52 career sacks. But hey, Al Gore wanted to be president. Some things, you have to get over.

    "It's been the toughest thing I've ever had to do," Bruschi said, "making the transition from putting my hand down in the dirt in college and then coming here in '96 and learning linebacker. But I was a realist. I come here and see the Willie McGinests [6 feet 5, 275 pounds] and the Chris Slades (6-4, 250) ... and I see the body type you need to be an edge rusher in this league."

    Bruschi saw guys who could use their long arms to keep blockers away. He saw guys with sprinter's speed and rippling muscles. Then he looked at his rather squat 6-1, 242-pound frame.

    "I look at myself and I look more like a Todd Collins, a Ted Johnson-type," Bruschi said. "So I knew I had to change myself as a player."

    Few NFL players have made such a drastic change so successfully. Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who has been coaching in the league 29 years, says former Giants linebacker Harry Carson is the only one he can recall who made a similarly successful transition to linebacker after being strictly a down lineman in college.

    "Tedy never played on his feet [at Arizona], and that was the projection when we drafted him [in the third round] at linebacker," said Belichick, who had just joined Bill Parcells' staff as a Patriots assistant as they were scouting the 1996 draft. "When you take a player who is a down lineman, and you put him on his feet as a linebacker, particularly inside linebacker, it's tough. To be able to read and react as quickly as he does is a little bit unusual. You don't see many guys who can make that conversion.

    "The thing about Tedy that has enabled him to be so successful is that he is just a smart football player. Doesn't matter whether it's a punt return, punt protection, middle linebacker, goal line. Whatever the situation is, he instinctively picks things up quickly."

    Of course, instinct only carries a man so far if he has no idea what his coach is talking about. While Bruschi and his saxophone once wowed his high school band director with a song he had just heard for the first time on the radio, his initial ear for football parlance was tin.

    During Bruschi's first NFL camp, then-linebackers coach Al Groh was explaining Bruschi's assignment.

    "If you see pass," he told the rookie, "drop back and pick up the hook."

    "Coach, what's the hook?" Bruschi asked.

    Groh closed his eyes and shook his head.

    "OK," he said, "I see we're going to have to start from scratch."

    And they did. Initially regarded as a good special teams player who could occasionally play linebacker, Bruschi has developed as a great special teams player and a starting linebacker. When he became a full-time starter at outside linebacker under Pete Carroll in 1999, the consensus was Bruschi had to play outside because of his comparatively small size, and that he would wear down by season's end if not given some breathers.

    That wasn't the case, although Bruschi was also playing on most of the Patriots special teams. He destroyed another misconception last season when he took over at middle linebacker in Week 11 because of injuries to Bryan Cox and Ted Johnson. While Bruschi gave kudos to rookie defensive tackle Richard Seymour for making his job easier, Belichick gave kudos to Bruschi for making the switch so seamlessly.

    Finding Time For Football

    Bruschi, who grew up in San Francisco, is accustomed to abrupt transitions. His parents divorced when he was 5. His mother, concerned that San Francisco and its cheap mass transit was making it far too easy for young Tedy and his friends to get into trouble, moved the family to Roseville, a quiet middle-class town 110 miles northeast of San Francisco, near Sacramento, before Tedy entered high school.

    Although Tedy played street football with his San Francisco buddies, and although his father was a football coach and his stepfather a tennis pro, his mother had pushed him toward music rather than sports.

    "I think my Mom did a good job," Bruschi said. "She got me into things that were not usual for guys like me. She threw me into the band. She threw me into the chorus. I remember 6 a.m. band practices, practicing for marching band walking around the parking lot. I think I was a band geek before I was a football player."

    But in Roseville, where the streets were empty and diversions few, Bruschi decided to go out for football. At his first practice, the coach told the players to group themselves according to position.

    "Where do I go?" Bruschi asked.

    The coach looked over the 5-10, 205-pound 14-year old.

    "You're a lineman," the coach said.

    And he turned out to be good enough to have recently been voted the best high school football player in Sacramento history.
   
"Football is part of who I am, but there's a lot of things I can share," Bruschi said.

    With Belichick's blessing, assistant coach Brad Seely makes sure Bruschi continues to share himself on special teams. The Patriots' penchant for using starters on special teams, something many veterans on other teams prefer to avoid, is picking up steam around the league because of the Patriots' success. But even in college, Bruschi's coaches didn't let his skills to go to waste.

    "I was a three-time All-American," Bruschi said, "and in my fifth year of college, I was on the punt team. I'm used to it. Besides, coach Seeley won't let me go. If it's anything I'm secure about, it's my position on the punt team. Me and [Roman Phifer] and [Mike] Vrabel on that left side, we'll be pretty tough to supplant."

    Bruschi doesn't seem to be looking for a lighter workload elsewhere. Rather than hire an agent, he has twice represented himself in contract negotiations with the Patriots. A month before the Super Bowl, he signed a three-year, $4.6 million deal that included a $2 million signing bonus.

    Some wondered if he shortchanged himself by representing himself and not becoming an unrestricted free agent.

    When he signed, Bruschi said, "The Patriots were very fair. I believe in loyalty. I want to be known as a Patriot. I don't want to be one of those guys jumping around the league."

    Although Bruschi had only two sacks last season, rushing the passer is still a favorite part of the game.

    "We blitz a lot here, so I still get my taste," he said.

    Bruschi will have a new blitz target this season. A guy named Drew Bledsoe. Would the hyper-competitive Bruschi dare let up if he had the new Bills quarterback in his crosshairs?

    "I talk to Drew a little bit. We're friends," Bruschi said. "I said, `If it comes down to me and you, just slide.'"

    Slide is something Tedy Bruschi would never do.

 

Patriots Notebook: Bruschi: Steelers showed no class at end

09/11/2002

 BY KEVIN McNAMARA
Journal Sports Writer

FOXBORO -- Several of the Patriots were not happy with Pittsburgh clawing and scratching to get into the end zone in the game's final minute.

Tedy Bruschi was restrained on the field after one goal-line play, and didn't hold back his disdain for the Steelers after the game.

Bruschi, who has seen players hurt late in games when the outcome already has been decided, said he "lost respect" for Pittsburgh because it chose to play hard until the final gun and not accept a 30-7 defeat. Bruschi said he worried about injuries because some players might not be running at full speed.

"I did have some respect for that team, but after what they pulled on that last drive, it's totally lost now," Bruschi said. "You're getting beat . . . just accept it with class. I know we would have if the tables were turned. But they're out there calling timeouts, trying to get extra yards, padding their stats. I don't know. Let's just end the game and get out of there healthy. They're putting both teams at risk."

Pittsburgh actually called two timeouts (at 50 and 39 seconds) to try to score. Kordell Stewart eventually capped an 11-play drive with a 1-yard plunge with four ticks left.

Bruschi said former teammate Marty Moore tore his Achilles tendon during garbage time of a game against Indianapolis last season, and he says he feared someone else could go down.

"I couldn't believe it. What's the difference between 30-7 and 30-14? I don't know what the difference is," he said.

Lawyer Milloy called the late-game fluff "stupid."

One for all . . .

Asked if the Steelers knew how physical the Patriots can be, Milloy said, "They better. They'll keep getting hit in the mouths. When in doubt, we hit. We have each other's backs [covered]

Tedy bears responsibility by Rich Thompson Monday, October 28, 2002

FOXBORO - According to Patriots middle linebacker Tedy Bruschi, the job of turning around the Pats defense begins with him.

Despite having two weeks to prepare for yesterday's encounter at Gillette Stadium, the Patriots defense got steamrolled by quarterback Brian Griese and the Denver Broncos in a 24-16 loss before a capacity crowd of 68,436.

 

The hellish streak of 100-yard rushers that began with the Chiefs' Priest Holmes on Sept. 22 was extended to five games, tying a dubious franchise record set in 1990. Clinton Portis ripped through the Patriots for 111 yards on 26 carries (4.3 per rush) with a pair of touchdowns. The threat of Portis allowed Griese to play-action pass his way to 229 yards and a touchdown.

 

Because he stands at the focal point of the Patriots defense, Bruschi personally took the fall for allowing the Broncos to roll up 351 net yards and convert 8-of-13 times (62 percent) on third down.

 

``I take responsibility on myself and I now have to play better,'' Bruschi said. ``We have to play better as players. Let's look at it as that starting with me.

 

``I look at it for what it is. We've lost four in a row, and we've got to do what we've got to do to get better. I'm going to keep on doing the things I've been doing and try to do more to turn the team around.

 

``I think if we all collectively have that attitude, we'll be all right.''

 

Bruschi had no business placing the Pats' woes on defense at his doorstep. He finished with seven tackles and made two crucial fourth-quarter plays deep in Patriots territory that kept the team's hopes alive.

 

The Broncos were on the verge of icing the game when Bruschi made the stop of the game. The Broncos were third-and-goal from the 1 when Griese handed the ball off to fullback Mike Anderson.

 

Bruschi fended off a block, strung Anderson to the left side of the line and made the solo tackle for no gain. The Broncos had to settle for a 19-yard Jason Elam field goal that made it an eight-point game with 9:45 to play.

 

``That was one of the things we worked on (in practice) because our goal-line efficiency had been poor. We haven't been able to keep teams out of the end zone,'' Bruschi said. ``We hold them to three instead of seven to keep us in the game. We were still alive, we still had life, and defensively that's what we want to do.''

 

The Broncos threatened again with a first-and-10 from the Patriots 22 with 6:21 to play, but Bruschi busted through the line and sacked Griese for a 7-yard loss. The Broncos managed only 1 yard on the next two plays, and Elam missed a 39-yard field goal attempt.

From Kevin Mannix's Patriots Report Card 11/12/02

LINEBACKERS C+: There must be some weird mathematical formula to establish playing time. Bruschi was a force in the final Bears drive and he had a sack and a deflection early in the game. But all too often, The Playmaker could be found on the sidelines waiting for a chance to play.

This defense isn't that good that it can function regularly with Bruschi out of action. Johnson's steady improvement is certainly a factor. He was credited with only five tackles by the Bears stat crew, but he wasn't mentioned on the two big stops on Thomas in the fourth quarter even though he figured in both.

McGinest came from the left end to make the stop on Thomas on second-and-1 and finished with a team-high six tackles and a deflection.

Bruschi INT on review
by Karen Guregian
Monday, November 18, 2002

OAKLAND, Calif. - It wouldn't seem like a game with the Raiders - or any Patriots game for that matter - without some kind of wacky play causing the fans' jaws to drop.
    On the scorecard, Pats linebacker Tedy Bruschi's 48-yard interception return for a touchdown late in the third quarter of last night's 27-20 loss to the Oakland Raiders doesn't seem abnormal. There was, however, nothing normal about the interception.

    Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon's pass, intended for wide receiver Jerry Porter, ricocheted off Patriots safety Lawyer Milloy's foot and popped up into the waiting arms of Bruschi. Off the linebacker went, untouched, into the end zone to draw the Patriots within 11 points at 24-13.

    But wait, it was time for a replay. The Raiders challenged the pick, saying the ball hit the ground before hitting Milloy's foot. Referee Ed Hochuli, however, couldn't find enough evidence to overturn the call.

    Touchdown.

    ``I was hoping that way was going to be a momentum changer,'' Bruschi said. ``But they posed some problems for us on both offense and defense. I think that team was hitting on all cylinders.''

    While it seemed like the ball might have hit the ground before clunking Milloy's boot, Bruschi made a salient point which supported the call.

    ``When the ball hits the ground, it doesn't bounce like that. It skids,'' said Bruschi, who led the team with seven tackles and three assists to go along with the interception return.

     ``When it bounced up, I knew I could make a play.''

    He did make a play, only it wasn't quite enough. The Pats offense sputtered all night, while the defense just couldn't contain Gannon and Co.

    So it's back to even for the Pats.

    ``Five-and-five is five-and-five,'' Bruschi said regarding the club's record. ``I'm a bottom-line guy. We have six weeks left at making a run toward being one of the better teams in the playoffs.''

Pat Patriot returns for one day
Patriots Notebook/by Mark Murphy
Tuesday, November 26, 2002
FOXBORO - Call it love at first sight.
When the Patriots, who will dress in the original franchise colors of red and white when they play their Thanksgiving game against Detroit this week, reported for duty yesterday, a bright, shiny Pat Patriot helmet hung next to each locker. Tedy Bruschi loved the image of the snarling cartoon Minuteman in his three-point stance.

``I love the throwback look, but I guess that's because I consider myself kind of a throwback player,'' he said. ``I've been waiting seven years to play in this uniform, so I'm excited.''

Asked who would win the battle - Pat Patriot or the more current Flying Elvis - Bruschi diplomatically called the matchup ``a draw.'' Others weren't so sure.

``I'm not sure I'd want to come across him in a dark alley,'' Matt Light said.

Otis Smith admitted he was warming up to the idea after watching it from afar on television or, as teammate Grey Ruegamer referred to it, ``on sports classic television.''

``It looks a lot better in person,'' Smith said, echoing the thoughts of one of the newest Patriots, Christian Fauria.

``Well, it's OK for one game,'' Fauria said. ``That's cool. Hopefully we get to keep them and pass them down to our young ones. I'm finicky about my helmets. I like my old one, but this will work for one game. This guy's an intimidator.''

 

Bruschi shows what perfect execution is all about

The New England linebacker fakes a blitz, drops back, and makes a key interception early in the game.

11/29/2002  By TOM E. CURRAN Journal Sports Writer

 

DETROIT -- Second quarter. Second-and-10. Detroit's first possession of the game. The Lions already trail 3-0 and rookie quarterback Joey Harrington is under center. On this play, he's operating with an empty backfield.

Reading this formation, the defensive call goes out for linebackers Roman Phifer and Tedy Bruschi to blitz from the left and right, respectively.

 

The ball's snapped. The offensive line slides to the right and lurches back into pass protection. Phifer has an alley off the left edge. Bruschi, who's looping inside to blitz from the middle, sees the line slide and the mass of humanity that's building. He breaks off his blitz and drops into coverage looking for a receiver running either a slant or a cross.

 

Harrington sees Phifer. He also sees his "hot" receiver on the blitz, Larry Foster. He doesn't see Bruschi. As Harrington releases the ball, Bruschi stretches out his arms. The ball finds his hands. Bruschi stumbles briefly, then rights himself and lumbers 27 yards into the end zone to make it 10-0 Patriots.

 

Neither Harrington nor the Lions really ever recovers from that start. The Patriots win, 20-12.

 

"We've been working on that play since the first day of training camp," Patriots' head coach Bill Belichick said of the intricate blitz. "We've messed it up a few times along the way, but it worked perfectly that particular time. Tedy made a great job of coming across, getting in front of the slant pattern. Very well-executed play defensively on his part. Just the way we practice it. We don't know what the pattern will be, but the way the line slid to Bruschi, he never would have gotten to the quarterback. They had him picked up so he recognized that and slid out."

 

"A lot of things have to go right," Bruschi said in the locker room after the game. Despite injuring his right knee and missing the rest of the game after getting cut block by Lions' guard Tony Semple on another blitz late in the first, Bruschi stood upright and looked OK.

 

"One, it was an adjustment to the empty backfield set," he explained. "Two, you've got to get the gaps right [the defensive lineman and linebackers have to fill the right spaces in the offensive line]. You have to get everybody in the right gap. Three, you have to have the right read from the offensive line and then drop back in coverage and start reading cross or slant. And if the right route comes your way, you have to make the play."

 

That play is a case study in why Bruschi, despite being somewhat undersized, is one of the most valuable players to the Patriots. He's smart, decisive, confident, well-schooled and physically able to execute what his mind tells him to do.

 

That's why, if he's lost for any extended period, the Patriots are looking at a December that just got a whole lot tougher.

 

The knee he injured is the same one he hurt in preseason when his leg whipped around Tebucky Jones while trying to make a play. On both plays he was going full tilt. That's been his nature.

 

If Bruschi's out for an extended period -- and that's not clear since he'll have an MRI this week and the Pats will be characteristically tight-lipped about his standing -- other players will have to fill the void.

 

Veteran linebacker Ted Johnson played well for Bruschi yesterday and looked outstanding in pass coverage, an area not usually seen as his strong suit. And special-teams maven Larry Izzo was in there as well and he had an impact late in the game, causing some Lions' receivers to think twice about going over the middle.

 

But even though he and Bruschi split time, Johnson scoffed at the notion the team would be just fine if Bruschi is slow to mend.

 

"I want him back 100 percent and ready to go as soon as possible," he said.

 

If you're a Patriots fan, you likely feel the same way.

Pats take double dip: Bruschi, Seymour injured
Patriots Notebook/by Michael Felger Friday, November 29, 2002

DETROIT - The Patriots suffered two potentially disastrous injuries in yesterday's 20-12 victory over the Lions, but Tedy Bruschi and Richard Seymour both set their sights on returning to action next Sunday against Buffalo at Gillette Stadium.

Of the two, Bruschi's status is more uncertain. The linebacker re-injured his right knee on a first-quarter blitz when Lions guard Tony Semple blocked him low, straightening out his knee as he flew in the air. Bruschi had to be carted off the field just before half, although he was walking under his own power after the game. Bruschi will have an MRI this weekend to determine the full damage.

The play was similar to one that occurred in the Pats' preseason game against Carolina on Aug. 23 when Bruschi sprained a ligament in the same knee. He was out two weeks after that hit but came back in time for the Pats' season-opener against Pittsburgh on Sept. 9.

 

``To say it's similar, I don't know yet. I think they can give me more information after the MRI and we'll go from there,'' said Bruschi, who shot down the notion that the injury could be season-ending. ``For the year? I pride myself on being a quick healer. So that's the last thing from my mind. Fortunately we have a long week and I've got a few extra days to get right. Who knows? Maybe I'll be out there for Buffalo.''

 

Earlier, Bruschi made the play of the game when he stepped in front of a Joey Harrington pass, kept his balance and then went 27 yards down the sidelines for a touchdown. Coach Bill Belichick said it was a defensive play the team had been working on all season and finally got right in a game.

 

``That was the plan,'' Bruschi said. ``If you can get (Harrington) to get it out before he wants to, that's when you create mistakes. And that's what happened.''

 

As for Seymour, he left the game in the second quarter with what he called a bruised thigh. He didn't return, but Seymour said he surely will be ready for Buffalo.

 

``That's the game plan,'' he said. ``Ice, treatment and be ready to go next Sunday.''

 

Don't expect Belichick to offer any help on the injured players. When asked about the two injuries, Belichick described them as ``sore legs.''

PATRIOTS NOTEBOOK   After return, injury forces Bruschi to leave

By Nick Cafardo, Globe Staff, 11/29/2002

DETROIT - Tedy Bruschi, who made a key play in yesterday's 20-12 win over Detroit - a 27-yard interception return for a touchdown - reinjured his right knee in the game and will know the extent of damage when he get test results today.

 

The Patriots' middle linebacker said it was the same injury he had in the exhibition game against Carolina in August, and it is unclear whether he will miss any time. The Patriots don't play again until Dec. 8.

''I took a shot on it,'' said Bruschi. ''I believe an offensive lineman went low on me and got a helmet or a shoulder pad on my knee, and I wasn't able to return to the game, and I'll just have to wait for some test results and go from there.''

Bruschi took the hit late in the first quarter and never returned. He was replaced primarily by Larry Izzo, who played very well.

''We have some time to rest, for myself to rest before we play our next game,'' said Bruschi, whose touchdown return was his second this season.

Also hurt in the first half, and not able to return, was defensive tackle Richard Seymour, who suffered an injury to his left quadriceps/thigh area. As he waited to board the team bus, Seymour said he expected to be OK and that because of the 10-day layoff, he may not miss any action.

Seymour, Bruschi, nursing ''sore legs''

By Jimmy Golen, Associated Press, 11/29/2002 14:32

FOXBORO, Mass. (AP) The only good thing about the injuries to Richard Seymour and Tedy Bruschi is that they have 10 days to recover before the New England Patriots' next game.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Friday both players had ''sore legs'' and were expected at the stadium for treatment. Otherwise, the players earned the day off with the win and won't be back at practice until Monday, when they'll begin preparing for the Dec. 8 game against the Buffalo Bills.

No other information about the injuries would be available, Patriots spokesman Stacey James said.

Bruschi, who returned an interception 27 yards for the Patriots' first touchdown, hurt his right knee with 2:05 left in the first quarter when he tried to leap over a Lions blocker and smacked it against a helmet. He did not return to the game.

Bruschi said it was the same injury he had in an exhibition game against Carolina; he missed the final preseason game but was ready for the regular season opener. He is expected to have an MRI to determine the extent of the damage.

''I'll just have to wait for some test results and go from there,'' he said Thursday. ''We have some time to rest, for myself to rest before the next game.''

Seymour hurt his left thigh later in the first half and did not return. He said Thursday he might not miss any time, thanks to the 10-day layoff after the Thanksgiving Day game.

Despite the injury early in the game, Bruschi made his presence felt. On the Lions' first possession, he slid across the middle to grab Joey Harrington's pass and then took it 27 yards for a touchdown to give New England a 10-0 lead.

Seymour had also been productive statistically, at least after a slow stretch that coincided with the team's slump. He had 10 tackles in five games before combining for 11 with two sacks and a fumble recovery against the Raiders (Nov. 17) and Vikings (Nov. 24).

Because of the week off, New England will be able to watch Sunday's games on television with special interest on the game between AFC East rivals Buffalo and Miami instead of getting their first look at the game tapes. But that doesn't mean the Patriots will be taking it easy.

''Well, this isn't really the time of the year for watching. We've got a job to do and we're just trying to win games,'' Belichick said. ''We'll watch the game because we have a vested interest in the game. If I watch the Army-Navy game, I'll watch that for pleasure. I'll root for Navy and that'll be pleasure.''

Eagle Tribune

Friday, November 29, 2002

Holiday cheer with a price

By Hector Longo
Staff Writer

The news: Tedy Bruschi suffered a knee injury in the first half yesterday, leaving the game and not returning. Bruschi will have the knee looked at today when the Pats return to Foxboro before getting a few, well-deserved days off.

Our slant: Pray, pray and pray some more. Bruschi, at linebacker, and cornerback Ty Law have game in and game out been the two, true standouts on the defense this year. Bruschi's interception return for a touchdown might be one of the greatest plays in Patriots history. It truly was one man squeezing every ounce of athletic ability from his 5-11, 240-pound frame into one incredible play, swooping from a fake blitz to pull in a Joey Harrington dump pass and race to the end zone, diving in.

Every play without Bruschi is trouble for the Pats' defense.

Holiday cheer with a price

PATRIOTS NOTEBOOK

Injury update: Zilch

Mum's the word on Bruschi, Seymour

By Bob Ryan, Globe Staff, 11/30/2002

FOXBOROUGH - How are Tedy Bruschi and Richard Seymour? Is that your question?

 

Coach Bill Belichick would rather have been caught singing ''On, Brave Old Army Team'' than divulge any real info concerning the two defensive stalwarts, each of whom was injured during Thursday's 20-12 conquest of the Detroit Lions. ''There's nothing to report,'' he said at yesterday morning's briefing. ''They have leg injuries.''

 

Bruschi took a helmet to his right knee from Tony Semple in the first quarter, two series after his interception return for a touchdown, and later was carted off the field. Bruschi (19 tackles the previous two games) likely underwent tests yesterday. The best anyone could pull out of Belichick was that, for all he knew, the injured duo was undergoing treatment even as he spoke.

 

Larry Izzo replaced Bruschi alongside Ted Johnson in New England's 3-4 alignment and made a nice open-field tackle in the fourth quarter to hold fullback Stephen Trejo to a 5-yard reception. If Bruschi is not ready to go against Buffalo a week from tomorrow, the Patriots could go with a 4-3 alignment with Johnson in the middle or turn to Matt Chatham for inside linebacker help. Roman Phifer and Mike Vrabel are also versatile enough to play inside.

 

Seymour, who suffered a thigh injury, should benefit from the extra rest. The break also gives free safety Tebucky Jones's leg injury more time to heal. He's missed the last two games.

 

Patriots Notebook/by Michael Felger
Tuesday, December 3, 2002
Bruschi likely out

Linebacker Tedy Bruschi (knee) is expected to sit out Sunday's game against Buffalo, something that directly affects the regular defense and also trickles down to special teams. To help fill the void in the kicking game, the Pats resigned veteran safety Chris Hayes yesterday.

Nearly all of the Pats' linebackers play on special teams, but the coaches may want to limit that work over the next few weeks as players such as Ted Johnson, Mike Vrabel and Roman Phifer probably will be seeing extra snaps on defense. . . .

Players will report to Foxboro today for meetings and practice after being off since Thursday night. Tuesdays are off days for the players around the NFL, but the players happily agreed to the schedule switch. They will practice in Foxboro through the remainder of the week.

Linebacker's role expands with Bruschi injury

By Howard Ulman, Associated Press, 12/4/2002 19:38

FOXBORO, Mass. (AP) Ted Johnson played one of his best games of the season the last time fellow inside linebacker Tedy Bruschi missed a game.

Bruschi is expected to miss the New England Patriots' game Sunday against the Buffalo Bills, and Johnson expects increased duties.

''I will have a more expanded role, but it's not going to be to the point (of) what Tedy does,'' Johnson said Wednesday. ''God didn't grant me with that kind of ability. I do what I do and that's what I do.''

Johnson is considered more of a run stopper. Bruschi plays a bigger role in the pass defense and had two interception returns for touchdowns in his last three games.

Bruschi is doubtful because of a knee injury sustained early in New England's 20-12 win over Detroit on Thanksgiving.

''He's so much fun to play with. His spirit is contagious,'' said Johnson, Bruschi's teammate for seven seasons. ''I don't know how long this is going to be, but we'll do the best we can.''

Johnson is the Patriots fifth leading tackler, while Bruschi is third.

''On a personal level, I feel bad for'' Bruschi, said Drew Bledsoe, anticipating his first game in Foxboro since his offseason trade. ''But on a professional level, I'd be really happy to see him standing over there in street clothes because he is very tough to play against.''

There are two good signs for Johnson.

In the only game Bruschi missed this season, game three against the Kansas City Chiefs, Johnson led the Patriots with 13 tackles. And in their first game this year against Buffalo, Johnson had six tackles and combined with Willie McGinest for a third-down sack of Bledsoe on the Bills' opening drive of the Patriots' 38-7 win.

New England and Miami are tied for the AFC East lead at 7-5. Buffalo and the New York Jets are 6-6. And Bledsoe is fifth in the NFL in quarterback rating, one spot ahead of the Patriots' Tom Brady.

''The way they played Miami last week was impressive,'' Johnson said.

In that 38-21 win, Bledsoe threw for 306 yards and three touchdowns. Johnson is coming off a decent performance with five tackles against Detroit, most after Bruschi was hurt.

Without Bruschi, the Patriots are likely to play more 4-3 defenses with Johnson as the middle linebacker.

Johnson, who has spent all eight of his NFL seasons with the Patriots, started only five of the 12 games he played last year.

This year, he left the team seven days before the season opener against Pittsburgh amid indications he wouldn't be activated for that game. He returned three days later and was not active for it.

Before the first Buffalo game, he said there are no hard feelings. He's started seven of the 10 games he's played and Patriots coach Bill Belichick has been impressed.

''Ted's just playing good football all the way around,'' Belichick said.

Sunday's opposing coach, Gregg Williams, has noticed.

''I've always admired Ted Johnson's and Tedy Bruschi's play,'' he said. ''They always have some of the top linebackers in the league.''

The healthy ones Johnson, Roman Phifer and Mike Vrabel must contend with their former teammate, Bledsoe.

''He's given them some confidence in the future of that franchise, and, obviously, this year,'' Johnson said. ''He's one of the best quarterbacks in this league and his leadership is unmatched.''

And his friendship with Johnson and other Patriots endures.

''If we decide to go out to dinner, this one's on me,'' Johnson said.

''Ted said dinner's on him?'' Bledsoe responded. ''That'd be a first.'

Nick Cafardo Mailbag 12/06/02

The more you watch Tedy Bruschi, the more you realize how important he is to the Patriots defense. In the Kansas City game that he missed, the Chiefs were able to score at will and part of the reason is because the Patriots were lacking Bruschi's fire in the middle of the field. Bruschi was scheduled to be out of this weekend's Buffalo game, and this is a huge loss for the Patriots. Bruschi makes up in pure desire and adrenaline what he lacks in physical size. That adrenaline is contagious to the rest of his defensive teammates. It will be interesting to see whether the Patriots defense struggles without that presence in the middle.

Injuries could make road tougher
By Paul Perillo (Patriots Football Weekly)

The 2001 Patriots had more than their share of injuries and misfortune to deal with during the course of their magical Super Bowl season. Most of their adversity came early on, lowlighted of course by Drew Bledsoe’s chest injury suffered in the second game of year.

But down the stretch when the Patriots established themselves as playoff contenders there was very little standing in their way. The injury list that had been littered with key names like Bledsoe, Terry Glenn, Ted Johnson and Bryan Cox was suddenly barren. In fact, in the final two weeks, New England listed a grand total of zero players on its weekly reports to the league.

The 2002 version is shaping up a bit differently. While this crew similarly went through its share of early-season turmoil — the four-game losing streak in October at the top of the list — early indications are that the stretch run might require some contributions from reserves.

December began with just two names on the team’s injury list — Tebucky Jones and Tedy Bruschi — but both are key starters and their absences could be key. Jones was listed as questionable with a leg injury heading into the Buffalo game after missing the previous two outings. He was originally hurt playing special teams against Oakland on Nov. 17 and has been working to get back in the lineup ever since.

Without Jones, Bill Belichick was forced to start Victor Green alongside Lawyer Milloy while using Antwan Harris as the third safety in the team’s big nickel package. Their play has been solid but Jones obviously adds an athletic dimension to the secondary.

Bruschi’s knee injury, suffered in the first quarter of the win over the Lions on Thanksgiving, may prove to be more serious — both in severity and for the defense. Bruschi took a helmet on the right knee while blitzing up the middle and was listed as doubtful for the Bills game.

“On a personal level,” Bledsoe said before arriving for Sunday’s game, “I feel bad for him. But on a professional level, I’d be really happy to see him standing over there in street clothes because he is very tough to play against.”

In the first half when Detroit’s offense remained balanced, Ted Johnson ably filled his shoes. But later on when the Lions went to a mostly aerial attack, special teams ace Larry Izzo was forced into action for a rare appearance on defense. His mobility made him a better alternative in pass defense than Johnson but obviously he’s not capable of performing the many roles Bruschi handles.

“We have some pretty big shoes to fill there,” Roman Phifer said of his fellow linebacker. “He’s made some big plays the past few weeks to help this team. We have some guys that have to step up and we’ll be mixing up some defenses to try to overcome that, but Tedy will definitely be missed.”

As perhaps the Patriots most versatile and athletic linebacker, Phifer will almost certainly be asked to perform in pass coverage with Bruschi out. Izzo also could be further pressed into service on passing downs to help in that department.

With the stakes naturally on the rise at this time of year, it would be unfortunate for the Patriots to have to play at less than full capacity. But the players know the grind of the NFL season takes its toll and they feel their situation is no different from most other’s around the league.

“The injury reports around the league are long at this time of year,” linebacker Mike Vrabel said. “Mental toughness is very important at this time of year. Guys are hurt and banged up and you just have to play through it. You have to have guys that are willing to play and play well when they’re not 100 percent. You have to have guys that can step in when players are down and not have a dropoff. Regardless of who’s out there we have good football players who can help this team.”

While Bruschi’s injury could have a negative impact on the defense, the offense has enjoyed Troy Brown’s slow restoration in recent weeks. Brown battled a knee injury that forced him to miss two games and left him at less than full strength for several others. But based on his 10-catch, 111-yard performance against the Lions he appears to be close to 100 percent.

“I feel about as good as I’m probably going to get at this point in the season,” Brown said with a smile. “Guys don’t suddenly start feeling refreshed after 12 games. But I’m feeling better and trying to fight through it.”

A healthy Brown will certainly give the offense a boost as the Patriots fight for every advantage they can get in the final month. Last season, good health was only part of the team’s good fortune in December. New England was originally scheduled to have its bye at the end of the season and the postponement of the Week Two game at Carolina gave them an extra week off to rest while everyone else fought for playoff position.

When the Patriots somehow captured the AFC East title and the No. 2 seed, they got another week off during the wild card round and rested their weary bones.

“[Being healthy late in the season] is definitely important,” Brown said. “We don’t have the bye week that we had last year at the end of the season. We were pretty healthy in December and we have a lot of must-win games right now just like then. This part of the year, if you’re still in the playoff hunt, it’s very important that you have all of your players ready to go.”

The 2001 Patriots showed they could have success with a full complement of players ready for the stretch drive. This year they may need to do it the hard way.


12/13/02 Boston Globe Patriots Notebook

Tireless worker

If Tedy Bruschi does not return for the remainder of the regular season because of his severe knee sprain, it won't be for lack of effort. Bruschi is spending countless hours rehabbing. He's still listed as doubtful ...

12/24/02 from Bill Belichick's Press conference:

 

Q: Where's [Tedy] Bruschi on that?

BB: Day-to-day. Definitely getting better, definitely improving, he was able to do some running this week, ahead of what he did last week. We'll throw him out there today and see whether that's …

Q: He didn't practice at all last week?
BB:
No, but in his running and working with the strength coach, with Mike [Woicik] and with the trainers, that he's definitely making progress.

Q: Is he somebody that falls into that category that it's conceivable that he can tell you that he feels like he's ready to play?

BB: I think that'll be a tough one because he hasn't played in almost a month now. I'm talking about a situation more like Joe Andruzzi. Who's basically played pretty much every week, there've been a couple weeks where he really hasn't been able to practice, but by the end of the week he feels okay. And you watch him run maybe on Saturday or Sunday before the game, and feel like, 'okay, he's physically okay, he just hasn't been able to take the reps in practice during the week,' but he's been playing every week. I think that's a lot different from guy who hasn't played in a month, and then all of a sudden say, 'Coach, I'm ready to go now,' that's a tough one.....

 

12/27/02 Globe Patriots Notebook

Bruschi doubtful

Tedy Bruschi was the only Patriot on the injured list who did not take part in practice yesterday at Boston College. The chances of Bruschi playing Sunday are slim, but Belichick said the linebacker is making great strides. Whether that means Bruschi could be a late add to the active roster remains to be seen.

Ask Nick Mailbag 12/27/02

Tedy Bruschi has done unbelievable work in trying to get back to form so he can play Sunday against Miami. The linebacker has spent hours rehabbing his damaged right knee. He didn't practice on Thursday, but Bruschi hasn't ruled out the possibility of facing the Dolphins on Sunday. Given his energy and the enthusiasm he brings to the team, his return would be huge for the Patriots defense.

Patriots Notebook/by Michael Felger
Monday, December 30, 2002

Hurtin' for certain

Now that the season is over the Pats no longer need to carry on the charade of Tedy Bruschi's injury being a ``day-to-day'' issue. Bruschi suffered a severe MCL tear on Thanksgiving in Detroit, an injury that figured to land Bruschi on injured reserve. The Pats were apparently holding out hope that Bruschi would be able to return if the Pats went on a deep playoff run. . . .

 

From Patriots Notebook

Nick Cafardo 12/31/02

... In addition to Brown, Tedy Bruschi(knee), Joe Andruzzi(knee), and Mike Vrabel(shoulder) could have surgery, though coach Bill Belichick said it was ''optional'' in some cases.

 

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