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Bruschi-will he play?


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Tedy ready for action -- Stage appears set for LB's return

By John Tomase

Thursday, October 27, 2005 - Updated: 06:52 AM EST


FOXBORO – Nothing will be official until he takes the field, but all signs point to linebacker Tedy Bruschi making his emotional return Sunday against the Bills.

Bruschi practiced again yesterday, two days after running through his first full-contact drills of the season. Coach Bill Belichick said Bruschi has not been held back in any way, and teammates spoke of No. 54 as if he'll be manning his familiar position on Sunday.

``Today, my job is middle linebacker,'' Chad Brown said. ``Today, my job is to back up Tedy Bruschi.''

Belichick predictably was quiet on Bruschi's playing status, but he sounded encouraged by his performance in a week's worth of practices since returning from a stroke.

``We'll take it day to day and see where it goes,'' Belichick said. ``He's an experienced player, so it's not like he's starting from scratch. He's a good, fundamental player, so he's got a lot he can fall back on.''

Bruschi said the decision is in the hands of his coaches, but there's no question he wants to return as soon as possible.

``Tedy's Tedy,'' linebacker Don Davis said. ``When Tedy's ready, he's going to be in there. You don't expect a guy who suffered a stroke to play football again, but that's the kind of guy Tedy is. It's like he never left.''

The first step was returning to practice, which Bruschi did last week. The Patriots have until Saturday at 4 p.m. to activate him for Sunday's game. If they don't, they have until Nov. 9 at 4 p.m. to decide if he's going to play again this season, though that deadline appears unlikely to come into play.

The hitting started for real Monday, and Bruschi said he finished the day with nothing more than ``routine'' soreness, a byproduct of the conditioning work he did while sidelined.

``This isn't something I just jumped into,'' Bruschi said. ``I've been training pretty hard to get up to my goal of practicing and playing again. I think my body is ready.''

And his teammates think he's ready.

``It's great to have him back out there moving around and doing things,'' linebacker Rosevelt Colvin said. ``Hopefully, he can continue to progress. It's great to have him on the practice field. To have him on the game field would be even better.''

There do not appear to be any legal or waiver-related hurdles slowing Bruschi's process. As it stands now, when he's ready to play, he'll play.

``Emotions are emotions, and I've felt them all,'' Bruschi said. ``But this is about what I'm doing today. That's what I'm going to focus on to keep my emotions behind me so I can focus on going forward.''

The coaching staff wasted no time testing him.

``It felt like the first day of training camp,'' Bruschi said of Monday's practice. ``Before you put on the pads, there's a little anxiety, but of course, my first play was a fullback lead. After that play, I think I was all right.''

He made his presence felt immediately, particularly among teammates who had yet to take the field with him.

``He's very instinctual,'' Brown said. ``He knows his spot. I can see why he makes the plays that he does. He definitely has an uncanny feel for what the offense is trying to do.''

It's a feel the Patriots have missed, particularly since Rodney Harrison went down for the year with a knee injury in Week 3. The Pats allowed three plays of 55 yards or longer against Denver, and the hope is Bruschi can help solidify the middle of the defense.

``I'm a realist,'' Bruschi said. ``I know I missed minicamps and training camp. I know there are a lot of linebackers on this team ahead of my development in terms of new adjustments. Monty (Beisel) and Chad will have to help me. I'd like to get out there and see what I can do, but it's out of my control.

``The important thing is I'm back. I'm a player. I'm a member of the team. I've always trusted my coaches' judgment. Whatever they decide to do, I trust.''

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