Bruschi set to announce his retirement
News conference is scheduled by Patriots
Linebacker Tedy Bruschi, who took pride in spending his entire career with the Patriots and was a member of all three Super Bowl championship teams, will announce his retirement this morning at Gillette Stadium, according to two sources close to Bruschi.
The Patriots have scheduled a 10:45 a.m. news conference for what they called an “important player announcement.’’
The 36-year-old Bruschi, who returned to action after suffering a stroke in 2005 and was a fan favorite because of his full-time, full-tilt style of play, was entering his 14th NFL season in 2009.
Bruschi had missed a long stretch of training camp practices with an undisclosed injury and when he returned he was running with the second unit behind second-year players Jerod Mayo and Gary Guyton. That was the first indication his roster spot wasn’t a sure thing. Backup linebackers usually must contribute on special teams and Bruschi’s impact in that area is limited.
One of the sources said Bruschi’s decision might have been prompted by his performance in Friday night’s exhibition game against the Redskins, when he was one of the defenders involved in a 73-yard gain by Washington tight end Chris Cooley.
Bruschi was the longest-tenured Patriot on this year’s roster, having joined the team as a third-round draft choice out of Arizona in 1996. He was entering the last year of his contract in 2009 and was scheduled to earn $1.9 million.
Bruschi recently had talked about options for his career after football, which could include motivational speaking, coaching, or something else. Bruschi, who authored the book “Never Give Up: My Stroke, My Recovery, and My Return to the NFL’’, toured the country this offseason as a speaker.
Helping build the Patriots into one of the NFL’s marquee franchises was something Bruschi took great pride in, and one of the lasting images of Bruschi came after the Patriots’ third Super Bowl championship when he held three fin gers in the air and held up a newspaper that read “Dynasty.’’ Television cameras also captured him playing on the field before the Super Bowl with his kids, an endearing image that followed him in ensuing years as he returned from his stroke.
A seven-time defensive captain, Bruschi had opportunities to leave the Patriots in free agency, but he once said he couldn’t envision himself in another uniform. At one point, he negotiated his own contract with the team, taking less than he could have earned elsewhere.
“I think it’s easier to jump ship than to right the ship,’’ he said in June of 2008. “I’ve had opportunities to go somewhere else and I think that would have been the easy way out. Why don’t you stay where you are and fix the problems you have here, and make it better where you are right now? That’s sort of the philosophy I’ve sort of stuck with my entire career.’’
In March, Bruschi explained how much it meant for him to wear only a Patriots uniform.
“I wish we saw it more, I wish we saw players who only wore one logo on their helmet, but that’s just not the case,’’ he said in a Globe interview. “Even when guys leave here for the first time and go somewhere else, it sort of bothers me. Seeing Drew Bledsoe in a Buffalo Bills helmet for the first time, or Chris Slade in that Carolina Panthers helmet, or Willie McGinest in the Cleveland Browns helmet, it looks funny. I always consider those guys Patriots.’’
Bruschi appeared in 211 career games, including the regular season and playoffs, helping the Patriots post a 144-67 record, including a 16-6 mark in the playoffs. His 189 regular-season appearances are more than any other linebacker in team history and rank third among all defensive players.
Bruschi played in five Super Bowls, tying the NFL’s second highest total. His retirement means only five Patriots - Tom Brady, Matt Light, Richard Seymour, Kevin Faulk, and Stephen Neal - remain from all three Super Bowl-winning teams.
After the Patriots beat the Eagles in Super Bowl XXXIX Feb. 6, 2005, Bruschi played in his only Pro Bowl on Feb. 13. Soon after, he experienced numbness in his left arm and leg and blurred vision and was hospitalized and diagnosed with a mild stroke.
But he made an inspirational comeback, returning for nine of the last 10 games the next season and was named Comeback Player of the Year.
Bruschi regularly has been asked about his future in recent years, questions he’s consistently deflected. This past June, he discussed his hope to stay involved with football, possibly as a coach.
“I know I can coach,’’ he said in a Globe interview. “I know the game. I’ve been in it so long. It’s just going to be a matter of what I do when I’m done. I don’t know. It’s a passion of mine. I know I love football. I know I want to be in it. Let’s just see what I’ll be doing.’’
Bruschi was often reluctant to take such a long-range view on his plans.
“After you get past 10 [years], I think that’s the way you have to do it because you never know what’s going to happen within a year,’’ he told the Globe. “So, when the season is over you kind of reassess things and that’s how it’s going to go again.’’
Former Patriots safety Rodney Harrison touched on Bruschi’s impact during last night’s NBC broadcast of the exhibition game between the Bears and Broncos.
“A terrific football player, a great friend of mine, one of the hardest-working players I have ever been around,’’ he said. “A tremendous leader in that locker room, a guy who was an integral part of that Super Bowl run we had.’’
Bruschi shared more about how much it meant to him to be a lifetime Patriot in that March interview: “There was a moment within an hour after I was drafted, I was in my college apartment telling my family that I want to stay with this team my entire career - I only want to be a New England Patriot. Growing up, seeing players going from team to team, coaches going from team to team, I never wanted that to be me.’’
Christopher L. Gasper of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Mike Reiss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.