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Bruschi announces retirement
New England Patriots
New England Patriots LB Tedy Bruschi announced his retirement today, closing his
13-year career as one of the most productive Patriots players in the team's
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - New England Patriots LB Tedy Bruschi announced his
retirement today, closing his 13-year career as one of the most productive
Patriots players in the team's 50-year history. As a team captain, Bruschi's
relentless work ethic and on-field intensity helped set the tone for the entire
"For the past 13 seasons, Tedy Bruschi helped define what it means to be a New
England Patriot," said Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft. "The heart and soul of the
defense during the most successful era in the history of the franchise, Tedy
also served as an example to every new Patriot of what it takes to be a champion
on and off the field. Tedy's tenacity as a player made him a fan favorite long
before he helped bring three Super Bowl championships to New England. His
remarkable and courageous return to the field following a stroke only added to
his legend as one of the most significant and memorable athletes in the history
of New England sports. We are blessed in so many ways to have had Tedy Bruschi
as a career Patriot."
Bruschi, 36, was originally drafted by the Patriots in the third round of the
1996 NFL Draft. The Arizona product spent his entire 13-year NFL career with the
Patriots. Bruschi leaves the football field having played a major role in
leading the Patriots to 11 winning records, including nine playoff seasons,
eight division championships, five conference titles and three Super Bowl
crowns. In Bruschi's 211 career games (including regular-season and playoffs),
the Patriots had a 144-67 (.682) record, including a 16-6 (.727) playoff mark.
Bruschi earned his first Pro Bowl honors following the 2004 season after
co-captaining a Patriots defense that allowed just 16.25 points per game, the
third fewest in franchise history. Bruschi is the only player in NFL history to
return four consecutive interceptions for touchdowns and his career total of
four picks returned for scores ranks second in Patriots history. He is tied for
fourth in NFL history among linebackers, and Bruschi is the only Patriots
linebacker to return multiple interceptions for scores in a single season (2002
Beyond his impressive numbers, fans and his peers revered him for his
accomplishments off the field and for his dedication to the New England area.
After Bruschi suffered a stroke in February 2005, he dedicated himself to
raising funds and awareness to fight stroke along with the American Stroke
Association. He established "Tedy's Team," a vehicle to help battle stroke, the
number one cause of disability in the United States. Members of Tedy's Team have
run in the Boston Marathon and the Falmouth Road Race and have raised hundreds
of thousands of dollars for stroke research.
Bruschi returned to the lineup for the final nine game of the 2005 season
following his stroke, and in his first game back he earned AFC Defensive Player
of the Week honors following a 10-tackle performance vs. Buffalo (10/30/05).
Bruschi played in 189 regular-season games for the Patriots, more than any other
linebacker in team history, third among all defensive players and sixth overall
in team history. Bruschi played in 22 career playoff games, the highest total in
Patriots history and tied for the second highest total of any active player
(Adam Vinatieri, 23).
For his career, Bruschi finished with 1,134 total tackles, 30.5 sacks, 12
interceptions, including four returned for touchdowns, 62 passes defensed, 18
forced fumbles, six fumble recoveries, including one returned for a touchdown
and 55 special teams tackles. Bruschi averaged 105 tackles over the last six
seasons. His 2003-2008 total of 631 stops are the most on the team over that
span. Over that time, the Patriots allowed an average of 17.25 points per game,
the second best total in the NFL.
Bruschi announces retirement
After 13 years and 3 titles, Tedy Bruschi retires
By HOWARD ULMAN, AP Sports
BOSTON(AP) Tedy Bruschi began the first day of his
post-football life by taking out the trash.
``I'm real life,'' he said, ``I'm just regular.''
Bruschi is that unique player who won three Super Bowls, spent a long career
with just one team and got Bill Belichick to drop his stoic persona on Monday
and, in a voice shaking with emotion, call Bruschi ``a perfect player.''
And one more thing:
``The thought of playing professional football after experiencing a stroke. I
mean, is that a statement you hear everyday?'' Bruschi said. ``It's not.''
After all that, and more, the inside linebacker and father of three whose sons
stayed home Monday because they ``would rather play with their Transformers than
come and sit in the front row'' next to his wife, announced his retirement after
13 seasons with the New England Patriots.
Smiling and never expressing regrets or shedding a tear, the longtime leader of
the Patriots defense had a simple explanation for retiring now.
Bruschi, who had missed much of training camp and one exhibition game with an
undisclosed injury, said he was simply too old and found his ``body doesn't heal
He also had accomplished all his goals except ``winning a fourth championship,''
he said. ``Knowing I have three previous ones, I think I'll let that one go.
``I feel great about myself right now.'
Just 4 1/2 years ago, Bruschi walked unsteadily out of Massachusetts General
Hospital with his wife Heidi. He had been admitted two days earlier, on Feb. 16,
2005, three days after playing in his only Pro Bowl and 10 days after his final
He had felt numbness in his left arm and left leg and had blurry vision. The
diagnosis: a mild stroke.
Bruschi had surgery for a hole in his heart, but made it back for the seventh
game of the season.
``I was retired,'' he said. ``I didn't think it was possible.''
In that game, he had 10 tackles against the Buffalo Bills. He led the team in
tackles for the first time in 2006 despite surgery for a broken wrist a month
before the season. He was the Patriots' leading tackler again in 2007.
His performance declined last year, and rookie Jerod Mayo, the Defensive Player
of the Year, emerged as his successor as the leader in the middle of the
``He kind of took me under his wing when I first came here,'' Mayo said. ``He
told me then that one day he would pass the torch on to me and the rest of the
team and I guess today's that day.''
Bruschi's retirement leaves running back Kevin Faulk, who joined the team in
1999, as the longest-tenured Patriot.
``When you talk about Tedy, you talk about leadership, inspiration,'' Faulk
Bruschi was a third-round draft choice from Arizona in 1996 who tied the
Division I-A career sack record. The Patriots switched him from defensive end,
where he would have been undersized in the NFL, to linebacker and he had to
learn to cover receivers.
``We (didn't) really know what to do with him,'' said Belichick, who also joined
the Patriots in 1996 as assistant head coach to Bill Parcells. ``All along the
way he heard, 'too small,' 'too slow,' ' too this,' 'too that,' and just kept
getting better and better and working harder and outworking and out-competing
pretty much everybody that he faced.''
Belichick spoke nonstop for 8 1/2 minutes, about Bruschi's passion, instincts
and optimism, his knack for always doing ``the right thing,'' and being ``the
epitome of everything you want in a football player.''
As his coach left the podium and Bruschi approached it, they embraced.
Wearing a beige suit and light blue shirt with an open collar, Bruschi stood in
front of two dark blue jerseys with his name and number 54 hanging on either
side of a video screen that had played career highlights - Bruschi sliding on
his knees as he scored on an interception, dumping the contents of an orange
Gatorade bucket on Belichick, raising the Super Bowl trophy in his right hand.
``There isn't one moment and I'll never have just one moment,'' Bruschi said.
``I'm very fortunate to have so many.''
Bruschi was proud to play with one team.
``I think people want to move, to change teams because they want to fix their
problems an easy way,'' he said. ``I'd rather right the ship than jump ship.''
Bruschi played in 189 regular-season games, more than any linebacker in club
history. His 631 total tackles over the past six seasons were the most on the
For his career, he had 1,134 tackles, 30 1/2 sacks and 12 interceptions, four of
``Tedy embodies everything we want the Patriot brand to stand for,'' owner
Robert Kraft said. ``Hard work, perseverance, overachievement, and selfless
commitment to team first.''
Bruschi isn't sure what's next.
What if Belichick calls in November, asking him to come back?
``Bill and I had a great conversation (Sunday) and I don't know if my answer to
that was, 'Don't call me,''' Bruschi said. ``If there was more I wanted to
achieve, to come back and do more, then I would welcome that.''
But he made sure he took advantage of his opportunities so when his career was
over he wouldn't wish he had done more.
``There were the highest of highs and the lowest of lows,'' Bruschi said. ``I
did my job for 13 years and now my job is done. My job's done, Bill. I'm looking
forward to living the rest of my life.''
After 13 years and 3 titles, Tedy Bruschi retires
Tedy Bruschi, the consummate Patriot, retires
By Ian R. Rapoport | Tuesday, September 1, 2009 | http://www.bostonherald.com |
FOXBORO - Inside the locker room, his former teammates dressed for practice and
spoke in hushed tones, reflecting on the profound impact the player had on their
Outside it, with his wife Heidi by his side, Tedy Bruschi [stats] walked down
the dimly lit hallways of Gillette Stadium, into the sunset and away from
Bruschi, the inspirational linebacker who became a face of the Patriots [team
stats] franchise, decided 13 years was enough. After earning three Super Bowl
rings, making one Pro Bowl and becoming an example to a community for returning
to football following a stroke, he retired yesterday.
“Every player that’s in that locker room (his) career is going to have a
beginning, a middle and an end,” Bruschi said in an emotional news conference.
“Today is my end. And it’s a celebration. I’m in a great place.”
The only Patriot to play in all five Super Bowls under owner Robert Kraft, the
fan favorite leaves a legacy that includes 1,134 tackles, 30 sacks and 12
interceptions in 189 regular-season games. He set the franchise mark with 22
playoff appearances, and the team had a 144-67 record when he played.
“Tedy embodies everything we want the Patriots brand to stand for,” Kraft said.
“A true iconic legend.”
The praise was overwhelming.
“He always did the right thing,” coach Bill Belichick said. “The perfect
Of his reputation as a gritty, often victorious competitor, Bruschi pointed the
spotlight in one direction.
“But I didn’t know how to win until Bill came in here,” Bruschi said of
Belichick. “Even though (your helmet) has a Patriot logo on it, do you think
they’re going to lay down? They’re not. You still got to play, and he taught us
Bruschi led the team in tackles in 2006 and ’07, but slipped to third with 75
last season. Never the biggest, strongest or fastest, his skills began to wane.
In 2009, he figured to back up inside linebackers Jerod Mayo and Gary Guyton.
The realization came: He is 36 years old.
“You realize you’re getting older,” Bruschi said. “It would be harder if I
wanted to hang on and go get that championship. Well, I’ve made sure during my
years that I was giving it all then, so right now at this moment I could feel
good about myself.”
A rarity in today’s sports world, Bruschi played his entire career wearing the
same No. 54 Patriots jersey.
When he began, and Heidi was just his girlfriend, he looked at her and said, “I
want to be the one that stays there the entire time.”
“He played at Roseville (Calif.) High School, the University of Arizona and the
Patriots,” said Dick Tomey, who coached Bruschi in college. “His whole football
career has encompassed three organizations, and he’s been revered in all three
In his wake, Bruschi leaves Mayo, a burgeoning star at inside linebacker who
last year was named the Associated Press Defensive Rookie of the Year.
“He told me that one day he would pass the torch on to me and the rest of the
team, and I guess today is that day,” Mayo said.
Now, Bruschi said he’ll be a regular person. He’ll drive his children, T.J., Rex
and Dante, to school. He awoke yesterday morning and took out the garbage.
Bruschi plans to live in the Foxboro area, but he won’t answer the phone and
make a late-season appearance Junior Seau-style.
“I’m not going to wish when I’m done that I did more,” Bruschi said. “I’m a
36-year-old father of three, and I’m looking forward to playing that new role in
Bruschi told many of his current and former teammates of the news Sunday night.
Many were surprised.
“I envy the guy,” defensive lineman Ty Warren [stats] said. “He’s going out on
his own terms.”
A big-play maven, Bruschi’s decision likely conjured up discussions of his
interception in 2003 against Miami that led fans to throw snowballs into the
air, the short-yardage stop against Oakland in the 2002 playoffs, and others.
“The plays he made around here,” nose tackle Vince Wilfork [stats] said,
Now, they will only be memories.
Bruschi walked into work every day seeing a sign that reads, “Do your job.”
“Well, I did my job for 13 years,” Bruschi said, “and now my job is done.”
Link to Herald Photo Gallery: http://www.bostonherald.com/galleries/index.php?gallery_id=2947&p=0
Bruschi's Blue-Collar Work Ethic Will Be Missed
by Kristen Merrill on Sep 4, 2009 9:39:17 AM
Patriots fans were somewhat surprised this week
when veteran linebacker Tedy Bruschi announced his retirement after 13 seasons
with the New England Patriots. Bruschi came to be known as the quintessential
Patriot player, putting team before self and playing with heart over the course
of his entire career. And while Bruschi's retirement will garner fewer national
headlines than those related to Michael Vick or Brett Favre, his news is no less
Bruschi's career, when viewed against those other higher-profile players, stands
out as special for the simple reason that he was rarely controversial and spent
his entire career with a single team. In this day and age of free agency, a
career like Bruschi's became the exception rather than the rule.
Bruschi's retirement signals the vanishing of a particular kind of player in the
Loyalty is a rare commodity in today's NFL. Just ask Green Bay Packers fans how
they feel about it. When a player who has become synonymous with one franchise
turns his back on the team and its fans, claiming a level of disrespect, the
fans find it hard to understand the player's motivations.
We are often blinded in our world of sports fandom as we frequently fail to
realize that the outcome of games is always going to mean more to fans who grew
up rooting for these teams through good times and bad, than it will for
professional athletes who are paid handsomely to play these games for a living.
But a player like Tedy Bruschi did a great deal to bridge the gap between a
fan's affinity and affection for a team and a player's responsibility to his
team's fans. In his retirement news conference, Bruschi revealed that at one
point when he became a free agent, he visited with a few other teams to discuss
possibilities. He claimed, "I went to Green Bay, and the moment I saw that Super
Bowl trophy from '96, I knew I wasn't going there." He was referring to the
Patriots’ loss to the Packers in the 1996 Super Bowl and the wounds that Bruschi,
as a member of that Patriots team under Bill Parcells, still felt. That kind of
loyalty is incredibly rare in professional sports.
Perhaps it's because he was underestimated as a young player. At 6-foot-1 and
247 pounds, Bruschi has always been considered slightly undersized for a
linebacker. Bill Belichick said in his news conference that no one expected
Bruschi to be a successful NFL pass rusher. He was deemed too slow or too small.
But Bruschi has always worked harder than everyone and stopped at nothing to
achieve what he set out to achieve. As we know, Belichick has never been prone
to hyperbole. So when he referred to Bruschi as "a perfect player," it was
obvious he has a great fondness for Bruschi -- both as a player and person.
Belichick was uncharacteristically emotional when discussing Bruschi. Perhaps
it's because he knows from what kind of struggles Bruschi has had to overcome.
In addition to the questions about his size and speed, Bruschi also suffered a
stroke and underwent heart surgery in February of 2005 before returning to the
field in October of that same season.
Those medical issues highlight the depth of the relationship between Bruschi and
the fans of this region. Heartfelt outpourings of concern for Bruschi's health
and his family reached the linebacker in droves. People spoke of their desire to
see him recover, not so that he could return to football, but because they
generally cared for him as a person.
That's a rare thing in this world, and Bruschi has always indicated how much he
appreciated it. He spoke at length at his news conference about how he wishes he
could thank each fan individually. Many of them, he probably will.
Even the length of Bruschi's career is unusual. With the average NFL career
spanning roughly four seasons, a 13-year Pro Bowl career for a defensive player
is, in itself, rare. To play the entirety of one's career with a single team is
nearly unheard of in this age of free agency and nonguaranteed contracts. But
Bruschi has never indicated that he wanted to play anywhere else.
He makes his home in North Attleboro, Mass., and has chosen to raise his family
of three boys in the area. He has said he plans to stay in New England now that
he's retired. That, again, is rare.
Few people would blame him if he were to take his three Super Bowl rings and
relocate to his home state of Arizona where harsh New England winters are a
rumor. But he's going to stay. He's become a New England Patriot in every sense
of the word.
At a book signing, after the release of his book, Never Give Up: My Stroke, My
Recovery, and My Return to the NFL, a friend of mine sported her "54 Full Tilt,
Full Time" T-shirt, shook Bruschi's hand and earnestly told him, "Thank you for
being a Patriot." He smiled and told her she was welcome.
In the last few days, watching the ongoing coverage of Bruschi's retirement and
the promise that he will remain around the team in some capacity, we're left
with the impression that Bruschi has never considered being anything else. The
quintessential Patriot may have retired, but he spoke of his hope for the team
in the future and the ways in which he fulfilled his dreams for his career.
We, as fans, are lucky to have had him for 13 years. A truly classy player, Tedy
Bruschi brought an energy and heart to the field every week, which is often
difficult to find in the jaded world of professional football. He is a role
model for many and someone we can be proud to call one of ours.
He will be missed.
Bruschi's Blue-Collar Work Ethic Will Be Missed - New England Patriots -
Bruschi more than a special player
The most stunning of all the circumstances surrounding the retirement of New
England Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi wasn’t the news itself.
It was that, during the press conference Monday morning, Bruschi was composed
It was his coach who was all choked up with emotion.
Who would have thought that?
“What that tells you is Tedy was probably his favorite player he’s ever
coached,” said Nashua’s Randy Pierce, the former Patriots Fan of the Year who
has developed a special bond with Bruschi over the years. “Although I don’t
think he’d ever say that. It also tells you Tedy probably went out on his own
Since Bruschi suffered his stroke in 2005, Pierce and the linebacker have grown
closer, “more on a friendship basis than a fan-player basis.” That’s because
Pierce himself has had his well known health issues, being legally blind and
also, for a time, unable to walk. Six surgeries in the last few years have been
able to help rectify the latter issue and he’s now even studying karate again.
As amazing, perhaps, as Bruschi’s return from that stroke. As Pierce, who
communicates with Bruschi often by e-mail – including early Monday – said, the
bond became easy because Bruschi’s first problems following the stroke were his
eyesight and ability to walk. “Well,” Pierce said, “I couldn’t see and I
Pierce is also mentioned in Bruschi’s book, and was the subject of an HBO
“Inside the NFL” video clip a couple of years ago that was nominated for a
sports Emmy. He is always seated with a crew of fans in the corner of the end
zone, spotted by the banner, “No. 54: Full Tilt, Full-Time.” That, he said, will
change, but not for the first game this season.
“That will be my chance to say good-bye to him as a player,” Pierce said.
Its these bonds that have made Bruschi a folk hero. He was simply a playmaker,
an overachiever who, while not the most physically imposing, simply the
“His instinctiveness, his passion,” Belichick said. “He always did the right
thing . . . I don’t think I’ve ever seen a player do what he’s done. It’s
remarkable, it’s truly special.”
Indeed, there was quite a unique bond between Bruschi and Belichick as well.
Good coaches have extensions of themselves on the field, and Bruschi was
certainly that. He even mused about how Belichick’s words every week to the team
“I swear it’s the same thing I would say.”
“(Belichick) turned me into a champion,” Bruschi said. “I knew how to play, but
I didn’t know how to win before Bill got here.”
Why is he retiring? His body was telling him he was, at 36, simply too old to go
on, especially after all he’s accomplished.
“Goals achieved, career fulfilled,” Bruschi said.
“We all have that happen, don’t we?” Pierce said. “My first reaction (to the
news) was selfishly sad, because of the end of the era it signifies. But five
minutes later, it was elation, because it was a celebration.”
Pierce’s father, Bud, suffered a debilitating stroke some time ago, and Pierce
took him down to a Bruschi book signing in Littleton, Mass. The player stopped
the event and took Bud Pierce into a back room to communicate as well as could
happen. From there, the bond between Pierce and Bruschi grew even more.
Those kinds of stories are what makes Bruschi a New England folk hero. He
succeeded in his vow of playing all 13 seasons with the same organization, often
negotiating his own deals before hiring Brad Blank as his agent later in his
career. He was just a different guy. Yours truly remembers a beaming Bruschi
wearing his buzzed haircut (rookie hazing), sitting in front of his locker after
the final game of the 1996 preseason. He knew he had made the team, which is all
he cared about.
And now? There will be a void when reporters walk into the locker room from
post-game auditorium press conferences. We will look immediately to the right
and Bruschi won’t be there for comments which were always so telling. He was
indeed the conscience of this football team.
“I will get past it,” Pierce said. “I don’t think I’ll ever wear another jersey
with another number. In fact, I have it on right now.”
In fact, he hopes in part to pay tribute to that number in the next 10 years. He
plans on hiking up each of New Hampshire’s 48 mountains beginning 2010, ending
And, by that time, Pierce will have turned 54 years old.
And you know his journey will be full tilt, full time.
Tom King can be reached at 594-4468 or email@example.com.
© 2007, Telegraph Publishing Company, Nashua, New Hampshire
Last call for Bruschi tales
Linebacker’s career was one to savor
By Mike Reiss | September 6, 2009
How about a few leftover Bruschis?
After all that was eloquently said last week at the first-class sendoff for
Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi, here are a few parts of his life and career
that shouldn’t be left out:
Modest beginnings. Bruschi seldom discussed with reporters his early years, but
when he did, it was clear how they shaped his identity. Born in San Francisco,
he grew up in a rough-edged area of the city where there was no backyard, only a
community circle of grass that was hardly big enough for pickup football games.
Bruschi loved to play “street ball,’’ dodging would-be tacklers while also being
careful not to trip or turn an ankle on the sprinkler heads that popped up from
the ground. Last Monday, Bruschi spoke about how NFL game days were an
“explosion of passion’’ for him, and that passion was born on that circle of
East-West Game catapulted him into the NFL. Bruschi’s production at Arizona was
impressive, his 52.5 sacks tying Derrick Thomas’s NCAA Division 1 record. Yet as
NFL teams prepared for the 1996 draft, many had a hard time projecting him as a
defensive end because of his size. The Patriots’ personnel department was led by
Bobby Grier that year, and momentum started building to select Bruschi after the
East-West all-star game, in which he shined. Bruschi and the Colorado State duo
of Brady Smith and Sean Moran were part of the discussion, but Grier liked
Bruschi, envisioning the Patriots integrating him into the mix with a “Bruschi
package’’ that would initially have him on the field on third downs.
Football just sort of happened. After his family moved to the Sacramento suburb
of Roseville when he was 13, Bruschi was attending freshman orientation and
bumped into two classmates who urged him to try out for the football team.
Everyone else showed up with cleats and other gear, while Bruschi had tennis
shoes and a T-shirt. Classic Bruschi. Once practice started, Bruschi didn’t know
where to go. Coach Don Hicks pointed to the linemen, and that’s how Bruschi
found his position. The Sacramento Bee noted that Bruschi’s career almost never
started, because his mother wanted him to remain in the school band (Bruschi
still plays the saxophone). Now the weight room at Roseville High is named after
The initial phone call from the Patriots - short but sweet. Bruschi once laughed
when reflecting on the call he got when he was drafted. Then-coach Bill Parcells
kept it short, saying only: “Bruschi, we’re going to put you at linebacker.
Here’s Al Groh.’’ Then the phone was handed to Groh, the linebackers coach, and
Bruschi’s transition from defensive end to linebacker was under way. Bill
Belichick later explained that Bruschi - who earned his lone Pro Bowl berth in
2004 - had come about as far as a player could in learning a new position and
turning into the “perfect player.’’
A bond with his brother Tony. At the end of his opening remarks Monday, Bruschi
saluted his older brother “who always gave those pushes when needed’’ while
mentioning the similarities between them. The Bruschi brothers have always had
each others’ backs, sharing in some of Tedy’s most thrilling highs as a player.
Tony once recalled his brother crying at his last high school game and his last
college game, because he didn’t know whether he’d play again. Then there was the
great moment after the Super Bowl win over the Rams, when Bruschi looked at his
brother and told him he’d made it. The power of his words, and the memory of the
modest beginnings they shared, brought Tony to tears.
Negotiating his contracts. Unlike most players, Bruschi went through a handful
of contract negotiations without an agent, negotiating the deals himself. He
hired an agent, Boston-based Brad Blank, only after his stroke in 2005. Bruschi
once explained his approach by saying he was comfortable to sit at the
negotiating table and work things out because the Patriots treated him with
respect. His intensity struck former Packers negotiator Andrew Brandt on a free
agent visit in 2000, as did his honesty. Bruschi told Brandt that even if the
Packers offered more money, he was unlikely to sign with them.
Last call for Bruschi tales - The Boston Globe
Ex-Patriots LB Tedy Bruschi to join ESPN as
Tedy Bruschi, who retired last Monday after 13 seasons as a Patriot, will be
joining ESPN as an in-studio analyst, according to an industry source.
Bruschi, a well-polished speaker, will be appearing on NFL Live, SportsCenter,
and will also likely be doing interactive chats on ESPN-Boston, the new website
expected to be starting up shortly.
The former Pats linebacker and defensive captain is expected to start his new
job as soon as Thursday.
How do you think he’ll do?
BostonHerald.com - Blogs: Rap Sheet» Blog Archive » Ex-Patriots LB Tedy Bruschi
to join ESPN as football analyst
New England's most beloved linebacker is as genuine off the gridiron as he was
steamy August night one of Foxboro’s biggest stars collided with one of
Nashville’s. Tedy Bruschi hopped up on stage to join country balladeer Kenny
Chesney in singing Steve Miller Band’s “The Joker.” “Kenny was proud of me,”
Bruschi says with a grin. “I’m glad I knew all the words.”
It was a surprisingly apt song for him. That lighthearted, sing-along side of
the former Patriots linebacker isn’t one the public always gets to glimpse.
Since 2005, when Bruschi suffered and recovered from a stroke, he’s appeared as
Mr. Serious, plugging the necessity of life insurance with SBLI (“Life hits
hard”), and raising awareness and funds for the American Stroke Association.
But friends say—and Bruschi himself shows—that there’s more to him, more to
life, than the serious stuff. He loves to explore and play, which makes sense
when you think about it: While he made his career as a professional athlete,
football remains a game (albeit a high-stakes, lucrative one), and Bruschi
essentially got to play for a living.
He’s someone who hasn’t lost the ability to tap into the child he once was. He
still practices the saxophone and has even performed in concert with students
from the Longy School of Music at Symphony Hall. “It was much more
nerve-wracking than any of my football games,” he says. “I felt like I was 15
again, but it got me back into my music. We all sort of lose our childhood; as
adults we say, ‘I wish I knew how to play piano or speak another language.’”
Bruschi isn’t one to pine over a wish—he goes out and tackles it. So when he set
up his oldest son, TJ, with piano lessons, he decided to take them, too.
During the past off-season he traveled with his wife, Heidi, out to Vail, where
they went ziplining. “I love to do things that I haven’t done before,” he says.
But when he heard that he was over the 235-pound weight limit (he was a trim 247
during the season) and got a peek at the gorges and rivers over which the line
flies, he balked. “There was a split-second when I was going to turn around,” he
says. “But I did it. By the end of the day I was running off the platforms.”
Such exuberance is easy to envision for anyone who watched the 2003 AFC East
title game against the Miami Dolphins, when a blizzard prevented many ticket
holders from attending, while those frozen few who did make the game sat atop
banks of snow on Gillette’s seats. Bruschi says that game remains engraved in
his memory for the snow, but also for one of his biggest thrills—intercepting a
pass and taking it back for a touchdown. After the goal he famously threw snow
into the air, pumped as full of joy as a man on a football field can be.
One of the unique things about Bruschi is how thoughtful he is about this game
he used to play; how he had consciously chosen to carve out a career with
stability in a vocation that is as volatile and ever-changing as a game of
Boggle, with players and coaches rearranging themselves season to season like
lettered dice in a shaken cube. Of all the players with the Patriots in 2008,
Bruschi had been with the team the longest: Last season marked his 13th with the
Patriots, his only team. It’s an anomaly in pro sports, and one reason why he’s
so beloved here. Just as the Patriots chose him in the third round of the 1996
draft, he has chosen the Patriots and Boston as his home. Even when given the
opportunity to play for other teams for more money, Bruschi declined. Twice.
“I’m sure some folks out there have watched what I’ve done and said, ‘What is he
doing?’ For me it’s about more than the money,” he says. “It’s about me being
comfortable with a team and my family being comfortable in a home. It’s human
nature to want more, to see something you don’t have and go get it. One of the
most difficult things I’ve had to do is fight that temptation.”
And if he’d lost that fight, he might have lost the chance to play football
again. During that magical 2004 season, as the Pats were driving toward a third
Super Bowl, he was coming into free agency. Big money was already being passed
under his nose like savory meats. The Pats offered less. But before the end of
the season Bruschi had made up his mind: If the Patriots wanted him, he wanted
Just months after signing that deal and days after his return from the February
Pro Bowl game in Hawaii, however, Bruschi woke up feeling off balance and numb
in one leg. He had to crawl from his bed to the bathroom, unable to stand up.
When he realized his vision was distorted, he called the team’s head trainer,
who said to call an ambulance right away. Bruschi was having a stroke at age 31.
He assumed that his football career had halted for good. His story had the
makings of a sad country song.
Instead he became the comeback kid of the gridiron. After months of grueling
rehab, his neurons forged new paths in his brain as he relearned physical feats
he had once taken for granted—the ability to balance, or stand on his toes. In
September, just months after his stroke, the doctors gave him the OK to return
to the sport.
In some ways that recovery parallels Bruschi’s entrance into the sport. At the
University of Arizona he’d played defensive lineman, but during an initial,
brief conversation with Bill Parcells after the Patriots drafted him, he learned
he’d be playing special teams and linebacker. He hung up from that call shocked,
baffled and a little worried—he had no idea how to play those positions.
Most pundits scoffed: Bruschi wasn’t big enough at 6-foot-1, 247 pounds, and
he’d never played linebacker. But they didn’t know Bruschi’s inner machinery
just yet; they didn’t know that this guy was so methodical, even as a kid, that
he packed away and labeled all his Transformers in zippered baggies, every piece
with its instructions. He spent his time learning how to look at the game
differently, watching films from a new perspective. “It was an extremely
difficult transition,” he says. “It took me three years to feel comfortable in
His knowledge of playing the line helped him as a linebacker, he says,
especially when he took on a guard. “I wasn’t the biggest or fastest out there,
but I knew how to use balance and angles so I could outsmart them.” During the
preseason, before Bruschi announced his retirement, he tried to pass some of
that experience and know-how on to younger members of the defensive team, like
Jerod Mayo. “I saw players like Mayo doing well, and I didn’t view them as a
threat—I saw them as players who could help the team win.”
He hopes those lessons help take the team to a fourth Super Bowl this year. He
has always taken that long view, even when he was on the team, knowing that he’d
one day be watching games from his couch in North Attleboro. When he started the
season, he knew the end of his football career was approaching. “I couldn’t play
linebacker forever,” he says. “I couldn’t play football forever.”
Bruschi admits that when he gets up in the morning his shoulders and neck ache.
His knees have a lot of miles on them. “You make 735 career tackles, and your
body is going to talk to you,” he says with a smile. “I’m not old, but I’m
football old. And that whole old thing was getting old.”
It’s hard to believe anyone thinks this guy is old—he’s about as fit as a
36-year-old can be. He’s thought about coaching, but knows from watching
Belichick and the other Patriots coaches that the time commitment can be
extreme. When ESPN approached him to become an NFL studio analyst, Bruschi saw
it was the right play for him. He would have time to advocate stroke awareness
for the American Stroke Association, coach Little League, attend school events
for his boys, have dinner with his family and still study the game.
Bruschi’s commitment to the Patriots was not unlike a marriage, and he says the
same principles he applies to his union with Heidi really did apply to his
loyalty to the Pats. It was about righting the ship instead of jumping ship, he
says. “Dealing with different personalities in the locker room wasn’t so
different from dealing with my three sons and my wife,” Bruschi says.
“Remembering that detail on defense was like remembering that detail of what my
Though there are no films to analyze, Bruschi believes in taking stock of your
own skills in marriage as you would in the game. “Seeing what I’m not good at in
my marriage—maybe communication, for example—is like finding weaknesses in my
game. You’ve got to work on those, take steps to get better,” he says. “I like
to think we have a quarterback rotation in our relationship. Sometimes we need
someone who can throw well, and sometimes we need someone who can run with the
Football and family have long been his life. Now that full-time football has
ended, he enjoys more time with family. “I’ve dived into that other part,”
Bruschi says. “But I feel lucky that I succeeded with the Patriots. Together we
did some things we’d never seen done before. I look back and smile.”
We do, too. And we look forward to his next move and next stage—whether it’s in
a television studio or with another country singer. BC