By: Bob George/BosSports.net
October 15, 2005

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DENVER -- Penny for Heidi Bruschi's thoughts.

Patriots/Broncos
Close-Up
Where: Invesco Field at MIle High
Denver, Colo.
When: Sunday 10/16/05
4:15 PM EDT
TV National:
TV Local:
CBS
WBZ-TV 4
DSS: DirecTV
Channel 714, 930
2005 Team
Records:
Patriots 3-2
Broncos 4-1
Latest Line: Broncos by 3
None of your business, Bob G. I knew that was coming. And that's a good and proper way to put it. This whole thing is nobody's business but Tedy Bruschi's and his family's.

Bruschi, slated to come off the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list on Monday, plans to resume practicing with the team at that time. This story, which has been broken by several area columnists who try and claim exclusivity (which means the world to the authors but nothing to the rest of us; as long as you get the story, who cares who gives it to you first?), has provided a neat little sidebar to what should be a difficult test for the Patriots on Sunday at Invesco Field at Mile High here in Denver. With the 3-2 Patriots facing a stiff test against the 4-1 Denver Broncos, all everyone is talking about is the seemingly imminent return of the heart and soul of the Patriot defense, felled by a minor stroke in February shortly after the Pro Bowl in Honolulu

As this story has developed, some similarities have come out which compare it to Terrell Owens's leg injury late in the 2004 regular season, an injury which nearly kept him out of Super Bowl XXXIX. The bottom line is that Bruschi, according to reports, has progressed at a faster rate than he thought, and the Patriot linebacker, who had once said that he would definitely not play until 2006, now wants to make a go of it in 2005.

What happens to Bruschi is not totally within his control. This column questioned the Philadelphia Eagles allowing Owens to play in the Super Bowl absent of doctor clearance. The opinion here was that if Owens suffered a debilitating, or even career-ending injury, Owens would sue the Eagles for permitting him to play even though he himself provided the impetus for him to play. The lawsuit would be based on recovery of potential lost wages, and the claim would be that the Eagles "should have ordered him not to play"¯.

This explains why Bob Kraft has consulted his legal services department for guidance in this matter. If Bruschi is allowed by the owner to play, Bruschi may have to sign a waiver indemnifying the team from any claims against them if Bruschi suffers any further injury or trauma related to his stroke. This is the sort of action the Eagles did not do regarding Owens, and fortunately (for the Eagles) Owens was not seriously injured in the 24-21 loss to the Patriots in the Super Bowl in February.

Furthermore, it has not been reported that Bruschi has received official clearance to resume playing or practicing. A Globe report on Saturday stops short of naming any doctor who will personally go on the record and say that Bruschi can resume normal activity. All the report says is that Bruschi "quadruple-checked"¯ with his doctors, and that "the bye week (the Patriots have next weekend off) is the perfect time to see where we are"¯.

So, Heidi, if you would like my opinion, here it is. Tell hubby to wait until 2006.

When news of the stroke first broke, Patriot Nation gasped, worried and prayed. Not one single solitary soul said anything to the effect of "Oh, (expletive), there goes our season!"¯ The first concerns were along the line of "He needs to be there for his family"¯, "He needs to preserve his quality of life"¯, and "No Super Bowl championship is more important than his life"¯. Those concerns remain unchanged.

Most fans out there will never understand what drives an NFL player. They don't know the competitive fires that burn within each player, what drives them to play through adversity and pain and debilitation. They don't know the players personally. All they see is what they see on the field, either live at the stadium or on their television. In this case, they see a linebacker who has risen to the heights of popularity because of his hard style of play, affectionately nicknamed "Full Tilt, Full Time"¯.

Simply stated, none of us are inside Bruschi's head. Nobody will understand why Bruschi is pushing the envelope on his return to the NFL. There are still a lot of fans out there who would rather Bruschi retire completely, and only because of concerns for his health versus concerns over his play. His play was All-Pro level in 2004, and he is still in his prime. This underscores the concern for his retirement being solely based on his health and his being able to be there for his family for the long haul.

Nothing exists which would make a Bruschi return an "awesome event"¯. The Patriots are banged up all over the place but sit currently at 3-2 as they end up this very difficult first six weeks of their schedule (in 2003, they were 2-2 and then ran the table). Nothing out there screams out for a Bruschi return to "save the season"¯. The Patriots have prided themselves over the last few seasons on being able to win no matter who is injured. While there have been minor concerns over the supposed lack of run defense, only LaDainian Tomlinson has gorged them for more than 100 yards rushing, and he happens to be the top back in the league.

This may turn out to be the story of an athlete whose machismo won out over common sense. Bruschi, who according to reports has been working out at an astounding pace in the workout room, has bulked up incredibly and believes that he is in proper shape to get back into game action. He had surgery to repair a congenital hole in his heart. He believes wholeheartedly that whatever caused the stroke is under control, even though the source of the blood clot was never found.

So many times we are presented with life and death scenarios in professional sports where you the fan sit back and think to yourself, "Gosh, does this put things in perspective!"¯ You have the death of Korey Stringer, Doug Flutie's son and his autism, Boomer Esiason and his son's battle with cystic fibrosis, Jim Kelly suffering through the death of his child, and so on. Bruschi's stroke is very much in this category, and it cannot be understated that an awful lot of Patriot fans in February feared the worst when news of this stroke came out.

That is mainly why Bruschi should concentrate solely on getting better and what's best for he and his family, and not what is best for the Patriots. If anything should happen to Bruschi because of this comeback, no matter how brave or committed to football he is trying to be, it would be too high a price for his family to pay.

And nobody, but nobody, needs the Patriots to win so badly that they would want it to come at any cost. Championships are nice, but not at the expense of one man's life. Not now, not ever.


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