Highlights from Tedy Bruschi’s press conference:
How lucky do you feel to be able to play again?
“There were times in my mind when I thought I was done. I thought I was done at times. C’mon, I can’t see, I can barely walk. How am I going to be able to play football again? I’m just being honest with you here. That’s the way I felt. So to come from there, all the way to where I am now –- to looking forward to getting all of the doctors to tell me the same thing, to being able to resume my career, to do what I love, I’m very excited. If I could express to you what this means to me, I would. But I don’t know if I really can. I’m sorry.”
When did you make the decision to come back?
“I think just my rehabilitation process. I just kept getting better, kept getting stronger. Workouts improved. Just every day, the progress I made just continued to get better and better. All of a sudden, I came to the point where they tell me I can play, I feel like I can play –- shoot, I know I can play –- so let’s just play.”
What would you say to comfort Patriots fans who feel you shouldn’t play?
“First of all, just say thank you because it’s obvious they care for me and they’re just worried about me. I can’t express to them enough how we’ve had the same concerns, we’ve had the same questions –- myself, [my wife] Heidi -– we’ve gone through everything. That’s why we’ve seen so many people. There is a man upstairs who says measure nine times and cut once. He’s told me this throughout this process. And we’ve measured a lot of times. I believe we’ve done that. We’ve made sure. We checked, and checked, and checked, and OK, let’s check another time because we wanted to be sure. I don’t think they know that I’ve done that. And I want to tell them I’ve done that, and everything, unanimously –- every doctor and physician who has seen me has give me clearance. So I would hope that would help them realize that I have been cleared to play and I’m not just doing this just because I want to play, forget it, I’m going for it. I’m not just doing that. This isn’t just something you go for. You make sure everything is right. C’mon. I lost my sight. One day you wake up and you can’t see your sons clearly any more because you’ve had a stroke. You can’t walk right. Two days before you’re playing a football game, now you can barely go down the steps. Two days before you’re making tackles in the Pro Bowl and then all of a sudden, the vision on your left side you can’t see your hand right here. It was a traumatic experience. It’s been a long road back. So I’m not just going to jump back into something without being absolutely, 100 percent positive. And I am. I would hope they would know me to know I would make sure of that. I would make sure of that, and I would never want to put what I have with my family at risk, because first and foremost, I am a family man. I am going to make sure before I resume what I do professionally that I am cleared to do so.”
What kind of fears did you have in the early going?
“Would I ever see again? That was one of my biggest concerns. I’ve been through times when I had pains. My arm hurt or I’ve had a sprained knee, or something like that. But never something to where I lost my vision. I lost part of my vision, so that was a big concern with me -– would I ever see again?
How long does it take you to get back to game shape and are you carrying the same weight you did when you played?
“Weight is fine. Game shape really doesn’t matter. Right now, I think I just have to worry about practice shape. I’m going to practice Wednesday and the coaches will keep their eye on me and evaluate me just like any other player from that point.”
Are you aiming to play against Buffalo after the bye week?
“I’m aiming to practice. I’m excited to practice, I’m excited to put my helmet on, that’s what I’m excited to do right now. Like I said, I’m a one-day-at-a-time guy. This has been a step-by-step process. The minute I was told I had a stroke it wasn’t like ‘Woe is me’ or anything like that. It was always where do I go from here. What is next? What do I have to do now to get better? That was my mindset from Day 1.”
Did the fact the team is struggling push you more?
“No, because I couldn’t let how the team was doing affect my mindset on my rehabilitation. I had to take it upon myself that my rehabilitation and getting myself 100 percent healthy has to be first and foremost –- before the team, in my mind. I couldn’t let Rodney [Harrison] getting hurt affect it. I couldn’t let any type of loss affect it, because what I was doing was so important to me. There was no way I could help them anyway if I wasn’t able to perform the way I felt I was capable of. So what I had to focus on was my rehabilitation, first and foremost.”
Are you feeling apprehension about that first drill in practice?
“I think I feel sort of the same way I do before every training camp, really. There is always a feeling I get before every training camp, to where you do that first contact drill and you sort of have that little bit of ansy-ness about you and ‘OK are you going to still put your face in there?’ I maybe have that same type of feeling, but I relate it to that and I don’t relate it to any type of apprehension of what I’ve gone through. I think my confidence is 100 percent back.”
How long will it take you to be ready for a game?
“I don’t know. I’m going to let Bill [Belichick] decide that. I’m going to go and practice Wednesday, Thursday. I’m going to participate fully with every team drill, meeting, practice, whatever there is. Right now, that’s all I am. I’m another player on this team and I will get evaluated by Coach Belichick and the coaches. …”
Is part of what you are doing now educating teammates and others about strokes –- and saying that you’re not fragile etc…?
“I hope I’m sort of educating everyone on stroke. I feel like I’m the face of stroke. I’m working now with the American Stroke Association, helping them get the word about stroke, the warning signs of stroke, because when this happened to me, I didn’t know I was having a stroke. I’m working with them, trying to get the information out, especially to people my age . I’ve gotten numerous letters from kids who are 16,20, 25 years old — 12 years olds — who have had stroke and made 100 percent recoveries. Their letters have really helped me get to where I am now. Working with the American Stroke Association, I hope to get the word out on stroke and help educate the people of America.”
Are you worried about teammates treating you as a fragile guy?
“If they do, they’re just going to have to watch themselves in practice. [Laughter]. If they want to come at me a little bit different, that’s OK, because I’ll just hit them the same way.”
How might you be able to help the team?
“I wouldn’t be standing here in front of you if I didn’t think I could play football. I think, like I said, I have confidence. I know my physical abilities are here. Game shape, like you said, practice shape, putting on the shoulder pads, that’s why the NFL has training camps. I don’t have that step in my process. It’s going to be different for me, but I think my 10 years of experience will help also. I’m not just going to get in there and have to get [repetitions] to recognize a wham [block] or something like that. I know what it looks like, I know how to react to it, just from experience. I think I’ll be pulling from my experience a lot more.”
Do you have any doubt that you will play in a game this season?
“No. I don’t.”
Bruschi said he’s been attending every meeting since the team started game-planning for opponents, which came three weeks into preseason. There was an overflow of media here at Gillette Stadium, with 17 television cameras and a standing-room-only group of reporters. He finished by thanking Stacey James, the Patriots’ director of media relations.
Looking ahead, we’ll plan on posting our next update Tuesday around noon.