Opponent Opinions

He wears number 54, was considered somewhat too undersized to have great success in the NFL, yet he has put together a tremendous career. Yep, New England linebacker Tedy Bruschi is an awful lot like Zach Thomas. The leader of the Patriots defense talked to the South Florida media on Wednesday, addressing, among other things, having to deal with a stroke following Super Bowl XXXIX.

Q: How did you enjoy playing with former Dolphins linebacker Junior Seau before he got hurt?

Bruschi: "I had a great time playing with Junior. He was a very emotional player and that's the type of player I think I am also. Junior, as soon as he came into this locker room he became a leader for us. The guys really responded to him. He's a really likeable guy and I think the biggest thing I enjoyed was I just had a lot of fun playing with him. He's a guy that I looked at, as a young linebacker in the league, as one of the guys I tried to look at his game and see what kind of tips I could pick up from him. So playing with him, even though it was about three quarters of the year, is still an experience I'll remember."

Q: How did you think Seau was playing before he was injured?

Bruschi: "He did well. A lot of people thought, coming in here, they wondered how much he had left in his tank and I think Junior's tank is always full. He proved that through not only the way he played, but also the production. He was tops on the list in our team in tackles and made a lot of plays for us. In terms of being missed, he's a guy that's not only missed on the field but also his mentality and his emotion will be missed in this locker room."

Q: The Patriots have had tremendous success since the start of the 2001 season; what has been the key?

Bruschi: "We're just always pushing forward really. The mentality here … if you lose a game, not to get too low and then also if you win a game not to get too high. We're just pushing on and focusing on the next opponent, on the next challenge and that also comes into effect when we think of players that we've lost here in the past in terms of free agency or injuries. We sort of look upon the next person to say, 'He's not going to be able to help us now, so you're the guy that has to help us and we've got to move on with you.' "

Q: Is this team different than it was a few years ago?

Bruschi: "Absolutely. With different players not being here and players coming in and coming out, you get different mentalities and different skill sets. So I think it's very different in terms of just the different attitudes in players and the type of players we have here that can do different things."

Q: You always seem like you're having a blast on the field?

Bruschi: "That's always something that's a part of me, just loving to play football and having fun doing it. Also when I'm there on the sidelines I'm also a fan of the game and seeing my offense or special teams, when I'm watching them play, to see them perform like that or when I'm not out there on defense to see the other guys who are in there for me performing, it's really enjoyable to watch and I have fun doing it. Not just going out there and making plays, but also watching my teammates do things like that on the field."

Q: Can you talk about the season that cornerback Asante Samuel is having?

Bruschi: "Since Asante's come in, it's sort of the same sort of progression for Asante and Ty Warren also. To see them come in as young players and the skills that they had when they first came in here … like Asante, when he first came in he was knocking down a lot of balls and through his progression and through his development, he's now become more of a veteran player we look to that's not only knocking down the balls but finishing those plays now and coming up with interceptions and big plays for our defense. The same thing with Ty Warren. If there was any type of weakness when he first came in the league, he's turned them all into strengths and now he's tops on our team in tackles and sacks. It's nice to see when young players come in and you see them close up and all of a sudden, you once looked at them as rookies, but now you look to them to make the plays and be major contributors."

Q: How about the play of DT Vince Wilfork?

Bruschi: "I could say the same thing about Ty Warren, Vince Wilfork and Richard Seymour. When I look at those guys in front of me, I feel very confident because I feel those guys in there together are one of the top tandems in the league. I really feel confident. A linebacker's best friend is his defensive line. To see Wilfork, Seymour and Warren in there, when Jarvis [Green] comes in there, a defensive line that I feel truly confident about and makes me make the plays out there."

Q: How have you guys been able to overcome all the injuries you've had at safety?

Bruschi: "I wish I could say it was new to us, about losing guys back there in the secondary, but it seems like that's been a two- or three-year thing when guys have gone down. A lot of times Rodney (Harrison) has had to be the guy that had to keep them together and be the glue. Then Rodney went down and now Geno [Eugene Wilson] goes down and it looks like Asante's the guy back there that's looked to to make plays. I think Artrell Hawkins has done a great job with us with being the communicator out there and the tone-setter with his big hits. But it's something we've had to deal with for a while, so we don't really push the panic button, we just look upon the next person to come in and we say, 'Hey man, it's your turn to get the job done.' "

Q: How did your stroke change your outlook on life?

Bruschi: "Yeah, when I had my stroke, I thought I had a good outlook on life before, but with that you just learn to appreciate everything. A stroke is something where you wake up one day and you're one person, and the next day, you get no warning, you're different. It affected me tremendously and at some point I thought it would take my career away and change my life, and it did that. It changed my life to where I look at it now and I'm appreciative of everything that I have and everything that's going on in my life. I think that should be a mentality everyone sort of has and the sort of mentality I had even before my stroke, but I think it sort of accentuated to me just how fun it is to live life."

Q: Does that play into your enthusiasm about football?

Bruschi: "If you've watched me throughout my career, I'm not different now than I was before. I've jumped around on the sideline before and I'm always smiling out there and having fun and I'm intense and it's just who I am. Nothing's going to change who I am. To me it was a challenge just to get back to who I was before my stroke."

Q: What do you think of Zach Thomas, and is there a lot of mutual respect there?

Bruschi: "We see so much of each other on film, being in the AFC East and him being a linebacker that's gone to Pro Bowls. You sort of learn to appreciate the guys that are in your division especially. Spikes, there's Vilma, there's Thomas, but probably the person I like watching most is Zach because wherever the ball is, Zach is. I've met Zach in some off-seasons in past years and he's a good person also. A player that I truly enjoy to watch."

Q: Are you back to level you were before the stroke and, if so, how long did that take?

Bruschi: "That is something where I don't really measure myself. I've never measured myself before and I'm not going to measure myself after, or compare the two. I've made plays before, I've made plays after. I look at it where it's more opportunity to play football. I'm not going to compare how I was before or how I am right now. I still feel like I'm making plays and I'm having fun."

Q: What did you take away from the Detroit game, where you guys struggled but still were able to come out with a victory?

Bruschi: "I take away a win. That's all you can do. You have to look at it as we won in December. Every time you win in December, toward the fourth quarter of the year, they're big wins because the games get bigger every week now as the year starts to come to an end. With each week comes more implications for postseason play and no matter how you get it, just get it."

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