The Associated Press
The Associated Press
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Ex-Arizona Wildcat Tedy Bruschi sniffs out plays and smacks down runners the way he did the last time the Patriots won the Super Bowl.
That’s pretty remarkable, considering he had a stroke in between.
“He is kind of the glue out there, just making the calls, getting the signals and getting the communication to the defense,” fellow inside linebacker Mike Vrabel said. “That’s a lot.”
The honors might not have come Bruschi’s way as they once did, but his teammates know he provides what they need. He has the strength to stop the run, the speed to keep up with receivers and the smarts to direct one of the NFL’s best defenses. He’ll need all three, plus his usual intensity, Sunday when New England visits the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship Game.
Running backs Joseph Addai and Dominic Rhodes will try to elude him, tight end Dallas Clark will try to outmaneuver him, and quarterback Peyton Manning, a master at calling plays at the line or scrimmage, will try to baffle him.
Not long ago, the versatile athlete had trouble just walking.
He had a minor stroke 10 days after the 2005 Super Bowl and three days after he played in the Pro Bowl. In the title game, he had a sack and an interception in the 24-21 win over Philadelphia that gave New England its third championship in four years. He is one of only 10 current Patriots who played on all those teams.
But as he left a Boston hospital after being treated, he walked tentatively with wife, Heidi, by his side.
Bruschi had surgery to repair a hole in his heart and missed the first six games last season, then played nine in a row before being sidelined for the regular-season finale and the first playoff game. He returned the next week for a loss at Denver that ended the Patriots season.
That setback left him “dissatisfied,” he said last summer, “because I think toward the end I really started to play good football again and I just wanted to win another Super Bowl.”
Beat the Colts on Sunday and he’ll still have a chance.
NFC: New Orleans at Chicago, 1 p.m., Fox
AFC: New England at Indianapolis, 4:30 p.m., CBS
More on Sunday’s games, Page 4C