The fiery linebacker won't be remembered for wins and losses, tackles, sacks or even Super Bowls. He'll be remembered for returning interceptions on dark, snowy afternoons at Gillette Stadium while fans tossed snowballs in time to "Rock and Roll Part 2." He'll be remembered for sideline pep talks, and he'll be remembered for epitomizing the heart and soul of a franchise that won three championships in four years.
A star like Bruschi doesn't come around very often, and he'll be very difficult to replace.
"I’m going to try my best to describe to you how I feel to you today," Bruschi said during a news conference on Monday morning. "After 13 years of NFL football, 13 years of Patriots football, I’m retiring. It’s difficult to say and difficult to do — to stand up here before you and say that — but over my career, I worked so hard to have this day more of like a celebration, because this would be so much harder for me if there was more that I wanted to accomplish, if there were any more goals left on the table.
"I think of everything I've ever wanted to achieve in this game, and I achieved those goals. The one goal I didn’t achieve was winning a fourth championship, and I think that’s a pretty good one not to achieve."
The 36-year-old linebacker called it a career after 13 seasons in the NFL, all of which he spent within the friendly confines of Foxborough, Mass. Bruschi played in 189 games — more than any linebacker in franchise history — registering 30 1/2 sacks, 12 interceptions, four touchdowns, seven recovered fumbles and 680 tackles. He played in less than 14 games in a season just three times in his career, and played in 22 playoff games, the highest total in team history.
"I'd rather right the ship than jump ship," Bruschi said of spending his entire career with New England. "That's what I've always told myself."
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick showed some rare but genuine emotion as he thanked the cornerstone of his heralded defense for truly epitomizing what it means to wear a Patriots stamp on the helmet.
"If you asked me to sum it up — how do I feel about Tedy Bruschi? — in five seconds?" Belichick said. "Perfect player.
"He's helped create a tradition here that we're all proud of. The torch has been passed, and we'll try to carry it on. It's a high standard."
Bruschi always represented the picture of dependability, even after he suffered a stroke 10 days after the Patriots' Super Bowl victory in 2005. Bruschi returned to the gridiron the very next year and played in the final nine games of the season. In his first game back, he earned AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors following a 10-tackle performance against Buffalo.
As a part of all three of New England's recent championship teams, Bruschi was instrumental in resurrecting the Patriots from also-rans to one of the most dominant franchises in the history of the NFL — and the road wasn't easy for him. He spent three years as a reserve and a special teams player before finally becoming a full-time starter in 1999. That year, he registered two sacks and 48 tackles
"Every player in that locker room’s career is going to have a beginning, middle and end," Bruschi said. "Today is my end. And at the end, you hope you have one moment to grasp and hold on to and say this was it, this was the one I’ll always remember. I’m very fortunate to have more than one. I’m very fortunate to have multiple moments like that."
Bruschi was effusive in his support for Belichick, telling the fans of New England to recognize the star it has on its hands.
"He turned me into a champion," Bruschi said. "I didn't know how to win until Bill came here. He taught me how to win and taught everyone in that locker room how to win…. I hope the people of New England realize who they have here. I felt it [was] a privilege to learn under him for all these years."
The star also thanked his fans for their unwavering support throughout his career.
"If I could tell every one of you individually, I would thank you for the support you gave me [during] the highest of highs and the lowest of lows," he said. "It helped me get back, it helped me keep up. Knowing the appreciation you had for me helped me continue playing in Year 10, 11, 12, 13."
While Bruschi admitted his decision was difficult, he has no qualms about whether it is right. Everything must come to an end, and he knows that.
"This decision, I've probably measured 900 times," he said, "and today I'm using the scissors."
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