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Pats have to be careful in order to pay Bruschi

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

BOSTON – Former Arizona Wildcat Tedy Bruschi has made his decision. Now the New England Patriots have to make theirs.

There are at least four options for the team now that Bruschi has decided to sit out the 2005 season to recover from a stroke.

The most likely is, he will be put on the physically unable to perform list, a designation that would allow him to collect his salary and even come back after Week 6 if he changes his mind.

Owner Robert Kraft has expressed a willingness to pay Bruschi, one of the team’s captains, the $850,000 he is due in salary regardless of what happens. But under the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement, it’s not as simple as that.

If the Patriots put Bruschi on the nonfootball injury or illness list, his contract stops running. They can’t pay him – even if they want to – until he returns.

Same with the reserve-retired list, though it has the advantage of allowing him to return merely by getting permission from the league. On reserve-retired, though, Bruschi couldn’t practice or train with the team.

Bruschi would be paid if he goes on injured reserve, but he would have to sit out the entire season with no option to return if his condition improves. He could attend meetings and train under the club’s supervision.

“He can do everything the team is doing, he just can’t come back and play this year,” said Carl Francis, a spokesman for the NFL Players Association. “Once you go on I.R., you can’t come back.”

For Bruschi to go on the physically unable to perform list, the move has to be made before the season. Players who go on P.U.P during the season have to have a football-related injury.

Bruschi’s stroke is thought to have been caused by a small hole in his heart that has reportedly been surgically repaired. He checked into the hospital on Feb. 16, 10 days after New England beat Philadelphia 24-21 in the Super Bowl and three days after he played in the Pro Bowl.

A defensive lineman at Arizona, Bruschi was converted to linebacker by the Patriots, and he developed a knack for making big plays. He was second on the team in tackles with 122 last season. In his career, he has 753 tackles, 25 sacks, 11 interceptions and 17 forced fumbles in 136 games.

Since the stroke, he been largely silent about his status and had not indicated whether he would return. But with training camp approaching, he was forced to make a decision.

The Patriots prepared for Bruschi’s absence by signing several linebackers in the offseason, including Monty Beisel and Chad Brown. New England has 17 linebackers on its 85-player roster heading into training camp, which starts Thursday.

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