Patriots' Bruschi Returns To Practice

New England Patriots middle linebacker Tedy Bruschi returns to the practice fields today. Eight months after being sidelined by a stroke, Bruschi will don his pads, his helmet and go out to smack some heads. The excitable Bruschi has a message for teammates if they fall into the trap of treating him with kid gloves, . "If they do, they're just going to have to watch themselves in practice," Bruschi said with a Cheshire cat grin.

PHOTO: New England Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi speaks to reporters at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., Monday, Oct. 17, 2005, about his return to the team following a mild stroke during the offseason. (AP Photo/Chitose Suzuki)

Patriots' Bruschi Returns To Practice
By Site Staff

Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi has spent the last eight months working back to normalcy. A mild stroke suffered last February, just days after the 10-year veteran played in his first career Pro Bowl, left the New England sports icon with vision and mobility problems, real-world issues that made football a mere footnote on a critical personal concern.

But over time and through strenuous rehabilitation, Bruschi returned to normal walking and his vision returned as well. And with a return to normalcy in his family and everyday life, the logical next step was a return to normalcy in his professional life. Having started out the season on the physically unable to perform list, Bruschi was eligible to begin practicing after the sixth game of the season, last weekend's New England loss at Denver.

It's an option the now fully healthy Bruschi has decided to take.

So what led to the decision to give football a try in 2005 after stating throughout the recovery process that he would "forgo the 2005 season" and that his goal was a return in 2006?

"I just think (it was) my rehabilitation process," Bruschi said. "I just kept getting better - I kept getting stronger. Workouts improved. Just every day the progress that I made just continued to get better and better, and all of a sudden I came to the point where ... they tell me I can play, I feel like I can play, shoot I know I can play, so lets just play."

The "they" Bruschi is referring to is a team of stroke experts that has unanimously cleared the New England defensive leader to return to football, a group that includes the renowned Massachusetts General Hospital specialist in stroke neurology, Dr. David Greer. Greer issued a statement in a team release announcing that Bruschi had been cleared to return to action.

"I have had the opportunity to care for Tedy Bruschi since the day of his stroke eight months ago and have closely monitored his rehabilitation and remarkably rapid rate of recovery," Greer said in the release supporting Bruschi's return. "Physically, Tedy is completely back to normal, and is exceptionally healthy. I have no doubt that he will be able to perform physically at a very high level. Tedy's safety, on and off the field, has always been our number one priority. At this time, I have advised him that, in my opinion, there are no medical reasons for him to delay his return to football."

Bruschi's return to the practice field, one step away from returning to the active roster, comes at an important time for a struggling defense for the 3-3 defending Super Bowl champs. The team has given up more than its share of big plays defensively and has created just three turnovers in six games. Bruschi, a well-known playmaker in recent years, could be a big boost for the team in the coming weeks. But that is when and if he proves on the practice field he's ready for game day action.

"I'm going to go in practice Wednesday, Thursday. I'm going to participate fully now in every team drill, meeting, practice, whatever there is," Bruschi said. "And right now, that's all I am. I'm another player on this team and I'll get evaluated by coach Belichick and the coaches to where, 'We believe Tedy can help us here ... so let's put him there.' So when they see me and they evaluate me and how I look in practice, I'm sure that decision will be made."

While he considers himself just another player right now, Bruschi says he can appreciate the concerns that fans and media members have expressed in terms of his long-term health as it relates to stepping back into violent NFL action.

"First of all I just say, 'Thank you,' because it's obvious that they care for me and they're just worried about me," Bruschi said. "I can't express to them enough how we've had the same concerns. We've had the same questions - myself, Heidi - we've gone through everything. That's why we've seen so many people. There's a man upstairs (Robert Kraft) who says measure nine times and cut once. He's told me this throughout this process. We've measured a lot of times. I believe we've done that. We've made sure. Unanimously, every doctor and physician that's seen me has given me clearance. So I would hope that would help them realize that I have been cleared to play and I'm not just doing this because I just want to play - forget it - I'm going for it. I'm not doing that. This isn't something you just go for. This is something you make sure everything's right.

"It was a traumatic experience. It's been a long road back. I'm not going to jump into something without being absolutely 100 percent positive and I am. I would hope that they would know me (well enough) that I would make sure of that. I would make sure of that and I would never want to put what I have with my family at risk, because first and foremost I am a family man. But I'm going to make sure before I resume what I do professionally, that I'm cleared to do so."

He has been, and it couldn't be coming at a better time for the staggering, inconsistent two-time defending Super Bowl champs. With a bye week to regroup and get prepared for a meeting with Bills on Oct. 30 that kicks off a seemingly lighter second-half schedule, the potential of getting back one of the team's ultimate leaders and playmakers finally has things looking up for the injury plagued Patriots.

AROUND THE LEAGUE

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Tim Rattay was acquired by the Bucs Monday in exchange for an undisclosed draft pick.

The move addresses the Bucs' quarterback shortage following a possible season-ending knee injury to starter Brian Griese.

Rattay, a sixth-year veteran, lost his job to No. 1 overall pick Alex Smith after four weeks. Monday's transaction beat the 4 p.m. trading deadline.

To make room for Rattay, the Bucs released fullback Rick Razzano.

Griese suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee against the Dolphins when linebacker Zach Thomas rolled up on him.

Griese was replaced by third-year pro Chris Simms, who went 6-of-10 for 69 yards in relief.

The Bucs' No. 3 quarterback, Luke McCown, also is from Louisiana Tech.

Under the best-case scenario, Simms will start against the 49ers in two weeks and try to build on the Bucs' 5-1 record, the best in the NFC. Under the circumstances, Griese's injury couldn't have come at a better time, with the Bucs heading into their bye week.

"What you have to like is how he handled the situation, how he handled the team, his calmness, how he ran the team," quarterbacks coach Paul Hackett said of Simms. "Certainly, he made some nice throws coming out in the second half, completed seven in a row, and that had a huge impact. But I think it was his calmness, his confidence in feeling, hey, I'm in my third year in the system. You don't ever want it to happen like it happened, but it did.

"We always used to say if something happens early in the season, the backup quarterback is best prepared because he's had all of training camp. Now what we say is the next best thing for it to happen, if it has to happen, is during the bye. Because it gives you your second chance to get him back in the rhythm."


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