In his 12th season, Bruschi knows this game is special
Tedy Bruschi recognizes the twilight of a career when he sees one.
“I would be the first to tell, I’m not in the beginning of my career anymore,” Bruschi said. “I’m in my 12th season now and how many can you possibly play?”
In all likelihood, not many.
Players like Junior Seau, the 18-year veteran who is Bruschi’s sidekick at inside linebacker in the New England Patriots’ 3-4 scheme, are freaks, few and far between.
Which is what makes games like this afternoon’s AFC Championship with the San Diego Chargers at Gillette Stadium special to Bruschi.
At 34, how many more of these can possibly be in Bruschi’s future?
“I’ve had great examples in my career, Willie McGinest, and Junior (has) played 18,” said Bruschi, “and they’ve taught me a lot of things on how to take care of yourself and really have longevity in this league.
“One thing you learn as you get older and experience season after season after season is that the bigger the games get, the better feeling when you win them because you don't know if you’ll be back. I was in the Super Bowl in 1996, losing to the Green Bay Packers, and you come away from that game feeling like, ‘We’re a great organization. I’m part of a great team. We’re going to go far.’ All of a sudden, we’re looking for a new head coach and we go down on a downward spiral until we turn it around again.”
That turnaround began in the year 2000, Bruschi’s fifth season in the NFL, when Bill Belichick was summoned to succeed Pete Carroll as the Patriots’ head coach.
Seven seasons later, Bruschi is about to take the field for the 21st postseason game of his 12-year career in pursuit of a Super Bowl ring he can put in the family safe with Nos. XXXVI, XXXVIII and XXXIX.
While that never gets old, Bruschi admits his body has.
The impacts of a regular season that produced a team-leading 99 tackles (pushing his career total to 1,063) and a 31-20 AFC divisional postseason win over Jacksonville that saw him make eight tackles are felt.
“I guess when you’re a rookie or second-year player, toward the end of the year you sort of still feel like a young man,” Bruschi said. “But I think you get to (the point where) toward the end of every year now, especially I think as every player gets into double-digits years, it gets tougher and tougher toward the end of the year, yes.
“I think I’d be the first to tell you as you get older along in your career, 34, 35 (years old), 18 years like Junior has been in the league, it takes a little bit longer to recuperate. But physically, I think we’re feeling well. This week was a good week of preparation, and we had full pads one day of very physical practice, and (Thursday) and (Friday) were also good preparation days.
“So physically, come Friday, Saturday, you start to feel good again and get ready to do it on Sunday.”