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Bruschi positive he’ll play this year for Pats

The Associated Press

The Associated Press

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Former Arizona Wildcat Tedy Bruschi handled the hits his teammates dished out in practice.

Whether he’ll get a chance for more contact in Sunday night’s game remains uncertain.

The energetic catalyst of the New England Patriots’ defense, who had a mild stroke 8 1/2 months ago, must await coach Bill Belichick’s decision whether he’ll play against Buffalo.

“I’d like to get out there and see,” Bruschi said before yesterday’s practice, his second with contact. “But it’s out of my control now. I’m back. I’m a player. I’m a member of the team. So I’ve trusted my coaches ever since I was in high school.”

After an off week, the Patriots are home Sunday night for their first division game of the season. There’s still time for his excitement to build and Bruschi expects that to happen soon.

“It’s Wednesday,” he said. “I think I’ll start to feel excited come the weekend.”

Bruschi returned to practice Oct. 19 after receiving medical clearance, but there was no contact until Monday’s session. After an initial anxiety, he said he felt fine during that practice.

“It felt like a first day of training camp for me before I really get my first hit in training camp,” he said. “So, of course, the first play they run at me is a fullback lead. So after that play, I think I was all right.”

Bruschi was hospitalized Feb. 16 after the stroke, then had surgery to close a hole in his heart in March.

He has been working out and attending team meetings since training camp began last July. He said in September he wouldn’t play this season, then changed his mind after consulting several doctors.

He remains on the physically unable to perform list but wasn’t among the 14 players listed on the Patriots’ injury report yesterday.

“I feel I’m being evaluated by coach Belichick, by my defensive coaches,” Bruschi said.

Belichick said that Bruschi hasn’t suffered any setbacks since resuming practice, but didn’t know how ready he is for a game.

He also said Bruschi is behind his teammates because he missed so many practices, but that he can make up for that with his experience and “did what everybody else did” at the practice sessions.

The Patriots are 3-3 and Bruschi has said he can’t turn around the defense by himself. But in his 10th season with the Patriots, he has an excellent grasp of their defense.

“I believe my body’s physically ready” for a game,” he said.

New England has 21 days from Bruschi’s first practice, until Nov. 9, to activate him or place him on injured reserve, ending his season.

If he misses the Nov. 7 home game against Indianapolis he still could be activated for the Nov. 13 game at Miami.

Bruschi has said he has no doubt he’ll play in a game this season.

His teammates say he’s already made a difference in practice.

“You hear him every time, every snap,” defensive lineman Jarvis Green said. “It’s just good to see him back out there after what he’s been through.”

Chad Brown, who moved from outside to inside linebacker this season, said watching Bruschi practice has helped his transition.

“His instincts are still there and that’s what separates him from other linebackers,” Brown said.

Bruschi said he’s not setting any expectations and continues to judge his progress one day at a time.

“You can’t come to any judgments after one day of hitting,” he said before yesterday’s workout. “I just look at it as a process.

“Emotions are emotions and I felt them all, but really, it’s just about what I’m going to do today, how well did I do yesterday, and just focus on playing football.”

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