By: Kevin Rousseau - Kevin's Articles are Sponsored by Comdoctor.net
February 18, 2005

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Crystal clear images are what come to mind when I think of number 54.

Images like hugging that first Lombardi trophy or sliding into the end zone for a touchdown against the Dolphins last year to set off those now-patented snow fireworks. Or how about when he held out the ball to the Colts bench during the fourth quarter of this year's divisional playoff game as if he to ask the Colts just how hot they thought they were now?

But perhaps the reason that a lot of people in these parts have a pit in their stomach isn't so much those images but more the ones of Tedy Bruschi, the man off the field. The Tedy Bruschi I am concerned about this morning is the one who took a "below market" contract last offseason because he couldn't bear the thought of coming to Foxboro as an opposing player and seeing that "Full Tilt, Full Time" sign down in the corner of the stadium or having fans wear his old #54 Patriot jersey as a tribute to the ex-Patriot.

A lot of fans probably can't get the image of Bruschi playing with his two sons on the field just hours before the recent Super Bowl out of their minds. Or about the anecdotal stories that they may hear about how great he is to the kids who live in his neighborhood. The list goes on and I'm sure that you probably have one you could add.

But the image that I just can't get out of mind is of a recent picture that was taken after the team arrived home with its recent Super Bowl crown. It was such a powerful picture that I had it up on my computer for a week. It symbolizes, to me, who I want my son's heroes to be and why I am proud to say that I am a follower of this group of men called the New England Patriots.

In the picture, a smiling Tedy Bruschi (when isn't he smiling?) is sharing the Vince Lombardi trophy with a thrilled, Downs Syndrome-afflicted child in a wheelchair who, in turn, is amazed to see his reflection looking back at him from the trophy.

No Ron Artest or Barry Bonds here, folks. Nope. What this picture symbolized was that beyond being the greatest gang of football players that I have ever had the pleasure of watching, Mr. Bruschi and his comrades are, above all else, good and decent role models for our kids. You'll never have to apologize for buying your son or daughter a Bruschi or Brady jersey as you would if you plunked down your dollars for one from Kobe or Bonds. Bruschi wasn't the biggest guy or the most talented guy out there but he sure did work tirelessly at it and was willing to sacrifice anything and everything for the good of the entire team.

Next year's Patriot team was going to look different for a number of reasons; the biggest of which, of course, was the departure of Coordinators Weis and Crennell. Now the team may be faced with not having its unquestioned leader on the defense back roaming the middle of the field. How can this be? It isn't supposed to happen like this.

With this in mind, let's state here what everybody is dancing around. The chances of Tedy Bruschi playing another football game maybe slim. From what I can gather, Tedy Bruschi may be susceptible to a recurrence and playing football at such a high level could be a tall order for Bruschi. This reality has certainly sobered me up and taken me off my post-Super Bowl high.

Of course, we've known this awful feeling before. The images of Tony C and Reggie Lewis still haunt us to this day. And then there are those who are still with us, like Norman Leveille and Darryl Stingley, both of whom had their glorious potential tragically cut short. While not knowing what the coming days and months will bring him, we can only hope and pray at this point that Bruschi is not forced to join this team of fallen Boston sports heroes.

Despite the grim forecast, the good news is that we have not lost Tedy Bruschi, the person, even if we may have indeed lost Tedy Bruschi, the football player. If I had to pick between the two, it wouldn't have to be a hard choice. And I suspect it wouldn't be hard for most of Patriots Nation either.

Especially for members of the Nation like that little guy who braved the cold night a few weeks ago and now has the thrill of a lifetime that he will never forget thanks to old number 54.


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