Smart playBruschi makes the right decision in sitting out seasonWednesday July 20, 2005 7:12PM
Yet another good call, Tedy Bruschi. The man known as the heart and soul of the New England Patriots defense thankfully followed his head this time, and came to the conclusion that playing football in 2005 just didn't make sense.Tedy Bruschi finished second on the Patriots last season with 122 tackles.Damien Strohmeyer/SI
Not with three Super Bowl rings already on his fingers. Not with two little boys at home. Not at age 32, when the possible reward didn't remotely measure up to the risk, whatever size the health risk was that he faced in light of the stroke he suffered in mid-February, three days after playing in the Pro Bowl.
We don't know yet whether Bruschi's decision was in essence made for him, or if he failed to receive medical clearance to play this year. But in some ways, the news, announced Wednesday, was still surprising. If for no other reason than Bruschi himself, with his fierce sense of competitiveness and his love for the NFL game that he has played so splendidly for nine seasons in New England.
As the offseason wore on, and Bruschi's saga developed, there were indications from those within the Patriots organization that the expectation was he would at least try to play this season. That kind of optimistic outlook just seemed to fit Bruschi's hell-bent style of linebacking. He would go all out, and do whatever it took to get back on the field. Until it became clear that he could not, or should not.
But Massachusetts' second most famous "Teddy'' owed nothing to the Patriots, the NFL or his many fans. His only responsibility in this real-life medical drama was to himself, his family and his health. His decision to stand down deprives New England fans of one of their most beloved players this season, but he has already given them more than they could ever ask or expect. He has been a part of all four Patriots Super Bowl teams in the past nine seasons, and No. 54 has been quite literally in the middle of nearly every huge New England victory these past glory-drenched four years.
The Patriots front office and coaches might have held out hope that Bruschi would be available in 2005, but they certainly didn't count on it. That's why they went out and signed veteran free-agent linebackers Chad Brown and Monte Beisel, giving themselves options if the worst-case scenario played out and Bruschi missed the season. The Patriots know they can't really replace Bruschi this year, but they can fill his spot with a quality player and try to keep the train moving toward a record fourth Super Bowl title in five years. After all, that's the New England way.
Perhaps in the most important sense, Bruschi staved off the potential of a worst-case scenario with his announcement on Wednesday. Why take chances with a stroke? Why even entertain the possibility that playing football again so soon would make you more susceptible to another, even more-damaging medical setback? What more did Bruschi have to prove? What was left to accomplish on the football field?
The Patriots will now go on without Bruschi and open the defense of their championship on July 29, their first full day of training camp workouts. Bruschi will be around, still working on his recovery, still providing whatever inspiration he can from the sideline as a teammate and team leader.
And at this point, as sad as it is to contemplate, we have to at least entertain the notion that he has played his final NFL game. If so, the former 1996 third-round pick will have both given and gotten far more than his money's worth. On the field, Bruschi always seem to be in the right place at the right time, making exactly the right play.
On Wednesday, in electing this time to stay off the field in 2005, he did it once again.