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Bruschi will try to return

After checking with doctors, linebacker confirms bye week is perfect time

Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi, who has been sidelined since suffering a stroke Feb. 15, confirmed last night he will attempt to make a return to football this season, beginning with the team's bye week following tomorrow's game in Denver.

''I've quadruple-checked [with the doctors]," Bruschi said. ''And the bye week is the perfect time to see where we are."

Bruschi declined to elaborate on his change of heart to return sooner than he orginally planned, saying he will discuss his plans and his physical status with the media sometime next week.

In an exclusive interview with the Globe Sept. 1, Bruschi described in detail how he suffered a stroke in his home following his return from the Pro Bowl in Hawaii. Bruschi awoke at 4 a.m. feeling numbness on his left side and a dull pain in his neck. He went back to sleep and awoke several hours later with the same symptoms, as well as unsteadiness and a loss of peripheral vision.

He was rushed by ambulance to Massachusetts General Hospital, where he was immediately diagnosed as a stroke victim. Bruschi said doctors believed the stroke was the result of a blood clot that traveled through a small hole in his heart. The harrowing ordeal initially left him without vision out of his left eye and unable to walk without assistance. Those frightening symptoms have long since subsided, and Bruschi declared himself fit during the September interview. Yet Bruschi also ruled out a return to football during the 2005 season, saying, ''I need time. I think I've healed faster physically than I have emotionally."

Asked at that juncture if he would entertain thoughts of a return this season, Bruschi said, ''I'm telling you right now that's not going to happen. I need to do what's best for my family and myself.

''There's a difference between living life normally and being fine and getting ready for a professional football season. I need the year to get myself ready."

Asked about those comments last night, Bruschi said simply, ''Things change. What I said at the time was 100 percent accurate."

As for reports Patriots owner Robert Kraft would not allow Bruschi to attempt a comeback this season, the linebacker said, ''I don't want to speak for Robert Kraft. All I can tell you is he has been 100 percent supportive from Day 1, and that hasn't changed."

Sources close to the Patriots and Bruschi said that while Kraft has concerns about Bruschi's decision to attempt to return this season, he has pledged his support for his player and has stressed the ultimate decision whether to play or not remains Bruschi's.

When Bruschi approached Kraft about returning sooner than planned, sources said, the Patriots' owner contacted a host of specialists throughout the country and made them available to Bruschi, in addition to the team's medical staff.

Said a source, ''Robert Kraft's concern here is for Tedy Bruschi the person, not Tedy Bruschi the football player. Having said that, he knows it's not his call. Only Tedy can determine his own outcome."

Kraft could not be reached for comment late last night.

Bruschi has been diligently training for months, doing agility work and strength training, but, he said last night, no contact drills with the team.

Although there are no guarantees how his body will respond to the trauma it has incurred, or how Bruschi's conditioning has been affected by his ordeal, the linebacker has been itching to return to a team that has struggled defensively because of a number of key injuries. The Patriots are 3-2 and have tried to make do without Bruschi, linebacker Ted Johnson (who abruptly retired just before the season started), safety Rodney Harrison (out for the year with a knee injury), Randall Gay, Tyrone Poole, and, most recently, defensive end Richard Seymour.

Bruschi was the heart and soul of a defense that won three Super Bowls in four years. His emotional presence in the locker room and his big-play abilities have been sorely missed.

During the Sept. 1 interview, Bruschi said his doctors ''could not find a reason why I couldn't play." Although the origin of the clot or the cause was never determined, Bruschi said he underwent a procedure in March to repair the small hole in his heart.

His rehabilitation included extensive physical therapy at the Spaulding Rehabilitation Center in Boston, where he literally learned how to walk again. Bruschi, who was told he could have died, has since become a spokesman for the American Stroke Association in hopes of highlighting the need to get to a hospital as soon as stroke symptoms are identified.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick declined to comment during his regular media session yesterday on the possibility of Bruschi returning.

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