Pats' Bruschi benefits from good instincts

Even Belichick marvels at how inside linebacker is always in right spot

Super Bowl

February 02, 2005|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Tedy Bruschi's transformation from a college lineman to a play-making NFL linebacker is not a logical one, leaving even defensive mastermind Bill Belichick puzzled at first.

Bruschi admittedly doesn't have the typical size or strength to play inside linebacker. He also doesn't have the speed.

What he does have can only be measured by the plays he has made over his nine-year career with the New England Patriots, whether it's stripping the ball from a running back or intercepting a pass over the middle.

Bruschi is to defense what quarterback Tom Brady is to offense. He always seems to come up big in the toughest of spots.

"He instinctively seems to do everything right in the right situation," Belichick said. "It's not something you really can coach. He just knows how to play. He knows how to play with power, he knows when to try to squish people in the pass rush, he knows when to tackle a guy low and when to try to go for the big hit. He just has a great sense of how to play football."

Belichick tried to find Bruschi's niche, shuffling him from defensive end to every linebacker position before settling on inside linebacker.

Bruschi, 31, never has been to a Pro Bowl, but this is his fourth Super Bowl and third season as defensive captain. He was second on the team in both tackles (128) and turnovers forced (three interceptions and three fumbles).

Belichick said Bruschi is one of a few players he has coached who can't always explain it, only uncannily reads it.

"Since the beginning I could sort of feel things out there," said Bruschi, who, at 6 feet 1, is generally listed at 247 pounds. "I really do pride myself in knowing what the offense will do before they do it, as they do it, even after they do it. If they show it again, I want to have it right."

Bruschi has often drawn motivation from conquering tough odds, overcoming a rough childhood in San Francisco and beating a drinking problem.

"I was kind of born that `us against the world' way," Bruschi said. "I'm not here to talk about my childhood, but let's just say that's who I am."

That confidence and instincts have regularly surfaced in the postseason, when Bruschi has made a memorable impact.

It started as a rookie in 1996, when he intercepted a pass from Mark Brunell in a 20-6 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC championship game. His latest play came in this season's divisional playoff win over the Indianapolis Colts when he jumped on a screen pass and wrestled the ball away from running back Dominic Rhodes.

"Obviously, Tedy is that focus point for us," Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel said. "He's the defensive captain, he calls the signals and makes a lot of huge plays. Every week, it's a pick, a fumble ... he's going to do something. You just don't know what play it's going to be."

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