By: John Molori
November 28, 2005

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THIS WEEK:

- Time with Tedy
- Rising Stars, Falling Stars: Who's hot and not in Boston sports media?

Kremer hits new high with Bruschi one-on-one

This week, ESPN's "Sunday NFL Countdown" featured a candid, in-depth interview with Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi. It was the first such interview for Bruschi since returning to the field after suffering a stroke in February of this year. The interview was a unique experience for reporter Andrea Kremer.

"I had done so much research for this," says Kremer, who continues to stake her claim as the best football interviewer in the business. "This was the first time that Tedy agreed to sit down on television in such an intimate setting. I honestly didn't know what to expect.

"Having done so many interviews, I usually know on the first question whether the discussion will be antsy or formulaic. From moment one, he spoke from the heart about the struggle that he has gone through."

Kremer's lengthy Bruschi interview will be run on ESPN in three parts. Part one aired on Sunday's "Countdown" show. Part two will air Monday evening on "SportsCenter" and part three Tuesday on "SportsCenter."

Bruschi told Kremer that his biggest challenge has been mentally, rather than physically rehabbing from his stroke and heart ailments. He also stresses to her that he didn't just jump into his decision to return to the field. Says Kremer, "This was a life threatening situation. It wasn't Daunte Culpepper with torn ligaments or Donovan McNabb with a bad back. Tedy said that if the clot was a few millimeters different either way, he'd be dead."

While the self-effacing Kremer refused to toot her own horn for landing the exclusive sit down, the fact is that more than 70 media outlets have called the Patriots requesting such an interview with Bruschi. That list includes CBS' "60 Minutes." Kremer deserves kudos for pursuing the story since February, sending periodic emails to Patriots executive director of media relations Stacey James and to Bruschi himself. Bruschi specifically asked to do the interview with the talented Kremer.

She explains Bruschi's struggle with the choice to play. "He told me that he used to think about the risk every second of every day. Now, it's every other hour of every day. He asked his doctor to give him an example of someone who came back to play after a similar illness. The doctor told him that there were no examples. He would be the first."

Perhaps the most significant part of Kremer's interview involves Bruschi 's visits with a host of doctors. "This was not a Reggie Lewis situation," says Kremer referring to the late Celtic star who, in 1993, seemingly searched for a doctor who would give him the go ahead to play after suffering heart ailments.

"Bruschi actually wanted to find a doctor who would tell him not to play. I asked him if any specialist ever told him not to come back. His response was, "˜Zero.' It's almost like he wanted to find someone who would tell him not to comeback. According to Tedy, it was the unanimous doctors' OK that made him want to play again."

The Bruschi interview had a deep impact on Kremer and her crew. "My whole crew was affected," she relates. "We use a Boston-based crew and I always ask them what they want to hear in an interview. We were hanging on every word he said and we all felt drained after the interview. I mean, for a player known for his reckless abandon on the field to articulate what he did about death and fear was remarkable."

Kremer says that Bruschi definitely wants to be known as a stroke survivor and that he is not shying away from the fact that he was seriously ill. " I know I had a stroke," Bruschi told Kremer. "I am sitting in front of you as normal as I can be right now. I know what it did to my body, but I won't let it affect my life."

Kremer says that she also spoke to several people in the Patriots organization about the unknown nature of Bruschi's ailments. To a person, they said that they don't think twice about it. The Bruschi story flies in the face of the ongoing Terrell Owens saga.

Says Kremer, "If you look at the 2005 season, outside of the Colts being undefeated, the two biggest stories have been Terrell Owens and Tedy Bruschi. They couldn't be more opposite stories.

"The media doesn't cover a lot of nice stories. I am so sick of the Terrell Owens thing. Think about it. On a national level, there was this huge build- up for Tedy's return against Buffalo, then what? There really hasn' t been much else. This is a terrific story of redemption."

The key physical issue for Bruschi, Kremer reveals, is the plug in his heart. She says that Bruschi has asked his doctors if a hit can further injure that area. "It can't happen," Bruschi says of his doctors' responses. According to Kremer, Bruschi saw his doctors after his first game vs. Buffalo and continues to be checked regularly.

Kremer has made a name for herself with a hard-hitting, yet thoughtful style. She has interviewed ex-Viking Cris Carter about his drug abuse, golfer John Daly upon his release from The Betty Ford Clinic and current Browns' quarterback Trent Dilfer following the death of his son. She was also the first to talk with former Raider Barret Robbins following his disappearance during Super Bowl XXXVII in 2003.

Given this past interview roster, what was the allure of a sit down with Bruschi? Kremer responds, "He was someone whom a lot of people sought. I know we've heard from Tedy, but not in this intimate setting. He told me that when his oldest son asked about his illness, he told the boy that his heart had an "owie." That really hit me."

Bruschi opened up on a lot of personal issues. He said that he considers Patriots owner Robert Kraft a member of his family and that he was not hurt that Bill Belichick did not visit him while in the hospital. Bruschi says they have a great relationship and that Belichick did anything he could do.

The interview pushed the boundaries of separation and professionalism for Kremer. She states, "In my business, I have to be objective about the people and teams I cover. Since coming back, maybe Tedy has been a little slow in coverage on a couple of plays, but so what. The fact is that I don't think you are a human being if you are not pulling for Tedy Bruschi."

Rising Stars

Michael Felger, "Patriots Fifth Quarter": Felger was unafraid to criticize the Patriots for their lackluster performance against Kansas City. He correctly pointed out that, unlike the secondary, the defensive line cannot use injury as an excuse for not pressuring the quarterback or stopping the run. Excellent candor.

Patriots Postgame Show, 104.1 FM WBCN: Gary Tanguay and Andy Gresh have brought some needed life to the Patriots flagship station. This week, the duo was right on in their direct analysis of the Pats' weak effort against the Chiefs. Tanguay is a superb host, while Gresh, who could pump down the volume just a bit, is always a hoot.

Ron Hobson, WEEI: Veteran Patriot ledger scribe did a nice job filling in as host of WEEI's "NFL Sunday" this week. He moved the discussion and was very solid. One complaint, WEEI should stop introducing Kevin Mannix as " formerly of the Boston Herald." It is a bit embarrassing and Mannix's fine history and knowledge is description enough.

Falling Stars

Fred Smerlas, Pete Sheppard, WEEI: Smerlas and Sheppard have fun with their roles as diehard Patriots boosters, but this week's show was ridiculous. For these guys to say that the defensive line and linebackers played well and that the Pats' defense was physical is ludicrous. WEEI's postgame fare is still the best, but it's time to put away the pom-poms and truly analyze a game.

Vince Wilfork, Fox Sports Net: Simply put, the underachieving Pats' nose tackle should end his regular stint on FSN and concentrate on his lame efforts on the field. Wilfork runs the risk of becoming one of those Boston athletes who talks better than he plays. Can you say Kevin Millar and Chad Eaton?

Ron Jaworski, ESPN: The normally astute "Jaws" must have sipped some of Michael Irvin's stupid juice. Last week, on ESPN's "Pardon the Interruption," Jaworski said that the Patriots are not a factor in the AFC and would not make the playoffs. Granted, the Patriots are a mere shell of last year's championship squad, but with their pitiful division foes, making the playoffs is nearly a given. After that, who knows? Jaworski should know better.

John Molori's columns are published in The Boston Metro, Patriots Football Weekly, The Providence Journal, Boston Sports Review, New England Hockey Journal, New England Ringside Magazine, TheRemyReport.com, ColdHardFootballFacts.com, PatsFans.com, BostonSportsReview.com, BostonPressBox.com, BostonSportsMedia.com, BostonSportz.com and DiscoverTheValley.com. Email John at JOMOL3@aol.com.


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