Tedy Bruschi is excited for Monday night, not just because he'll be at Gillette Stadium as a member of ESPN's Monday Night Football broadcast team for arguably the most highly anticipated game of the year, but also because at halftime he'll be honored by the Patriots for his stellar career.
Speaking on a conference call a short while ago, Bruschi talked about being honored by the only team he played for in his 13-year career.
"I'm very excited about it...I'm not sure what emotions I'm going to experience (that night); it's a whole new setting for me having my family on field with me, and not having a helmet and shoulder pads on," Bruschi said. "I'm very appreciative of Mr. Kraft setting this up for me. I'm very proud to say that I only played for one team...I look forward to the opportunity to thank the fans for all of the support they gave me throughout my career.
"We'll also see how I feel depending on what the score is at halftime."
Bruschi, who moved into the analyst's chair at ESPN almost seamlessly, had some candid comments about the Patriots/Jets rivalry and other observations and keys for their showdown this week:
On the support he received from fans while coming back from a stroke:
I needed it. I needed it because there were times during my comeback I though possibly I wasn't doing the right thing; this isn't a shoulder or back injury...Fans helped me with stories of how they overcame adversity. Learning that from them really helped me a lot, with the doubt that I had at times, I needed that support. I'd get emails and letters sent to my house -- when you get a letter at your house and all it says is "Tedy Bruschi" and the city you live in and you still get it, it's amazing.
We've had a handful of rivalries there over the past decade or so: the Steelers, the Colts, (but) especially the Jets. During Jet week, I really felt the rivalry coming in through the coaching staff, from Al Groh to Bill Belichick -- I always felt coaches coaching with more urgency, a more aggressive demeanor, (stressing) what it meant to get a job done, execute special assignments. Coaches feel this one and the lead comes from them. There's a lot of history back and forth [with coaches and players working/playing for both sides], and with that comes more of a wanting to beat the team. But the coaches really took the lead when I was there.
How Belichick uses 11 days to prepare for a game:
A lot of it goes on behind the scenes; he has more time to study, to break things down, to experiment. He has great feel of when players might need a little more time, they got today off after a full-pads practice yesterday, and that's when you know Bill Belichick feels his team is starting to get it, that they understand. Also (practicing) day after day it gets mundane, (players could get) bored and when game comes around there isn't a sense of urgency because they've done it over and over. So he uses his time very wisely and the more time he has to make adjustments the better, but he doesn't overkill it a lot."
What Belichick will try to take away from the Jets:
I think what he'll want to take away one of biggest weapons (they have, which) is the slant to Santonio (Holmes), Braylon (Edwards). I think stressing the coverage from those cornerbacks, to make them throw outside the numbers, don't give them anything easy inside, if you let them get inside, once they get it - I feel Santonio is probably one of most dangerous open field runners in NFL. If you let him get inside leverage, that's half a yard space, and once he gets that...that's a situation you don't want to be in. Make Sanchez throw outside the numbers.
If he believes the Rex Ryan/Mark Sanchez Jets are a legitimate threat to New England's AFC East dominance:
Yes, I do. In the past, we won so many division championships and a lot of those times we weren't looking at teams in division as threats down the line. There were times division was over and I remember getting hats and T-shirts that said 'AFC East champions' (with weeks to go in the regular season), but now it's you win the AFC East and you're going to be a contender...Now it looks like Jets are the serious contenders. It's opposite, the way these teams handle things, but I think the Jets have solidified themselves as legitimate threats. This year is the first year it's in doubt whether the Patriots will win the division.