Bruschi’s Next Stop? Hall of Fame

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Bruschi's Next Stop? Hall of Fame There are 19 linebackers in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In 2014, that number should rise to at least 20.

That’s the year Tedy Bruschi is eligible for enshrinement in Canton. No one deserves to wear a canary yellow jacket, give a moving speech and have his bust immortalized as much as the retired Patriot.

Bruschi played a violent game with the grace of a symphony conductor. Finding Bigfoot would be easier than finding a flaw in his character. And he even owns a football name — Tedy Bruschi. It just sounds tough, and it fits right in with all the legends who came before him.

Chuck Bednarik.

Nick Buoniconti.

Dick Butkus.

Jack Ham.

Ray Nitschke.

Bruschi belongs in the company of greatness — and not just because of phonics.

Everyone is born to do something. The lucky ones figure out what it is, and get to wake up every day and do it. Bruschi was born to play football, and for most of this decade, he did it as well as anyone who’s ever stepped on the gridiron. He has three rings to prove it.

Before Bruschi takes his rightful place among the very best of the NFL’s best, the Patriots should retire his number. No other player should wear the No. 54 on a blue and silver jersey. This would be the ultimate honor and sign of respect for a player who gave his blood, sweat and tears to one organization for 13 seasons.

It would be the perfect way to say thanks and show their gratitude.

The Patriots have retired seven numbers in team history: Gino Cappelletti’s No. 20, Mike Haynes’ No. 40, Steve Nelson’s No. 57, John Hannah’s No. 73, Bruce Armstrong’s No 78, Jim Lee Hunt’s No. 79 and Bob Dee’s No. 89.

Bruschi’s number is a no-brainer for the list. So is Hall of Famer Andre Tippett’s No. 56. Tom Brady’s No. 12 will be there when he calls it a career.

According to Pro Football Weekly, it is getting harder to retire numbers. Because numeric options are dwindling, the Patriots are shying away from the practice.

But sometimes, tradition trumps protocol. This is one of those times. Recognizing a legacy is more important than keeping a number available for a journeyman or a rookie.

A number can tell a story. It’s mythology. It’s memories, great moments and goosebumps. It’s No. 4 diving across the ice or No. 33 draining an impossible shot at the buzzer. It’s No. 9 hitting .406. Or No. 8 leading by example.

Over the years, New England has been blessed with many great players who have borne many historic tales. They represented a number, but they were much more than a number.

No. 54 already is a part of that club. Now it’s just a matter of making it official.

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