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This fall will mark Tedy Bruschi’s fourteenth and possibly final season as a New England Patriots linebacker. Once his contract is fulfilled, the question is, where does he go from here? The idea of retirement is looming in the air.
When the Patriots drafted him in 1996, Bruschi looked great on paper. While playing college football for Arizona, he had a total of 185 tackles and fifty-two sacks. He was an All-American who had several Pac-10 honors under his belt. He proved his skills as a defensive player during his rookie year for the Pats when he had two sacks during the ’96 playoffs. However, as successful Bruschi was as a rookie, his next few seasons showed a certain amount of inconsistency in his performance.
In his first three years, he had a mediocre total of 119 tackles. But then in 1999, he had 106 tackles. From 2001-2002 he had a combined total of just 144 tackles. Aside from his success with sacks, his performance can hardly be described as stable and reliable over those years. In 2005, Bruschi suffered from a mild stroke, resulting in the discovery of his congenital heart condition. His performance has been steadily declining since returning from his brief period of recuperation. In 2007, he had 92 tackles and two sacks. In the following season, he had 75 tackles and zero sacks (the first time since playing for the Patriots in which he didn’t have a sack).
Perhaps Bruschi should have used his recuperation period as a time to reflect upon his NFL career. Is being a linebacker worth risking your life? Not many athletes with a heart condition would consider returning to a game where your body is gruelingly and physically put to the test each week.
Bruschi does have a reason to be proud of his accomplishments. He is the only player in NFL history to return four consecutive interceptions for touchdowns and he has the privilege of being tied for fourth in NFL history among linebackers in the sack category.
At this point in his career, what else does Bruschi want to do in football? He has been plagued by injuries throughout his career and the longer he plays, the more detrimental these injuries could be to his long-term health. He is 36 years old and holds records that other players only dream of achieving, players such as David Pollack. Pollack could have easily been Bruschi’s match as a linebacker for the Bengals. He too came from college as a god-like defensive player, yet his life-long dreams of playing in the NFL were ripped from him when he suffered the injury to his vertebrae in 2006. At least Bruschi has had his chance.
Why not go out on a high note with three Super Bowl championships? The longer Bruschi chooses to play in the NFL, the more likely his stats will decrease, his health put in jeopardy, and his former success will only be stuff of legend.