Patriots: Bruschi's Return Spells Change

Week six concludes the Patriots unprecedented difficult road trip foisted upon them by the NFL league schedule makers. The Patriots managed to survive with a share of the AFC East lead in spite of their loss to the Denver Broncos Sunday. They now have two weeks to fix things. The possible return of Tedy Bruschi may be just what they need. Insiders report includes a look at Bruschi's future and the changes at LB.

PHOTO: Linebackers Teddy Bruschi (R) and Mike Vrabel #50 talk on the sidelines October 2, 2005 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

Loss to the Broncos, Maybe a Bruschi would help
By Site Staff

The doctors agree that Tedy Bruschi has overcome his stroke. Now we'll see if he is the cure for what ails the Patriots.

In his first public comments since deciding to accelerate his comeback, Bruschi on Monday said he would return to practice on Wednesday. The 32-year-old inside linebacker was felled by a stroke at his home in February. He originally said he planned to sit out the entire season, but now is targeting the Patriots' next game, Oct. 30 at home against Buffalo. The Patriots (3-3) have a bye this week.

Bruschi's news conference came a day after his team was thumped in Denver, falling behind 28-3 in the third quarter before settling for a 28-20 loss. The two-time defending Super Bowl champions have alternated wins and losses all season and rank at or near the bottom in several defensive categories.

Yet Bruschi sees positives.

"They're my guys, man," he said of his teammates. "They play hard. They work hard. They practice hard. They're doing the same type of things that we've done in the past when we've been extremely successful. The season is still young... We're going to look at this bye as an opportunity to rest and get better and get some guys back -- me, hopefully -- and go from there."

The Patriots' defense has been battered by injuries, including a season-ending one to strong safety Rodney Harrison. Defensive end Richard Seymour has sat out the last two weeks with a bad knee, and cornerbacks Tyrone Poole and Randall Gay have missed extensive time.

The Patriots could use Bruschi in the red zone -- they rank last in the NFL in terms of preventing touchdowns there. They could use him to force turnovers -- they have only three takeaways all season, none over the last three games. And they could use his leadership.

Although Bruschi looks and sounds like his old self, no one knows how long it will take him to get back into playing shape, or whether he can still be the same player he was.

"I wouldn't be standing here in front of you if I didn't think I could play football," he said. "I know my physical abilities are here. Game-shape, practice-shape, putting on the shoulder pads, that's why the NFL has training camp. I don't have that step in my process. It's going to be different for me. But I think my 10 years of experience will help also. I'm not going to (need) reps in order to recognize a wham (block). I know what it looks like. I know how to react to it, just from experience."

NOTES

--One thing that is working for the Patriots right now is the screen pass. A staple of the offense under former coordinator Charlie Weis, it continues to pay dividends. Tight end Daniel Graham's 45-yard touchdown against Atlanta in Week 5 came on a screen, and Patrick Pass had gains of 32 and 39 yards on the play against the Broncos.

"A lot of it is the timing evolved," quarterback Tom Brady said. "A lot of it is getting a feel for the game and understanding that the screens are going to be open. You have to get the defense to pursue pretty hard. You have to get them upfield. You have to scheme it up so they don't know it's coming. It's easy to stop the screen when you know it's coming. The idea is to get them thinking something else."

--Reserve OL Russ Hochstein played the entire second half against the Broncos, subbing for rookie LG Logan Mankins, who was ejected on the final play of the first half. Mankins was tossed for punching Denver's Ebenezer Ekuban in the groin on a field goal attempt.

When Joe Andruzzi left for Cleveland as a free agent in the off-season, Hochstein was thought to be a candidate for the left guard spot. However, Mankins was installed there at the start of training camp and never relinquished the job. Hochstein, in his fifth pro season, filled in at left guard for an injured Damien Woody in the playoffs following the 2003 season.

Coach Bill Belichick was in no mood to dish out praise following the loss, saying of Hochstein's effort: "There were times when it was good and there were times when I'm sure there were a couple of plays that he'd like to have back."

PLAYER NOTES

--WR David Givens scored his first touchdown of the season -- an 8-yard pass from Tom Brady on which Givens made a terrific catch in the back of the end zone.

--K Adam Vinatieri played in his 150th consecutive game, pulling within two of former kicker/receiver Gino Cappelletti, who is second on the team's all-time list.

--DE Richard Seymour missed his second straight game with a knee injury.

--CB Randall Gay, who had sat out the last three games with an ankle injury, returned but played sparingly.

--S Arturo Freeman, who signed four days before the game, played in the second half and finished with two tackles.

--LB Mike Vrabel, a stalwart on the outside in his five years with the Patriots, started at inside linebacker, where he was teamed with Chad Brown. Vrabel had a team-high 13 tackles.


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