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Ask PFW I: Bruschi Appreciation Day

With Tedy Bruschi's recent announcement saying he will forgo the 2005 season, many fans checked in to offer their appreciation for one of the most inspirational figures in Patriots history. Part I of this week's mailbag deals with all things Bruschi.

It's a sad day in Patriot land no question, just a comment – sorry to hear Bruschi is sitting this season out hopefully he will remain with the Pats in some capacity although I'm sure BB will make the necessary adjustments. It just won't be the same. It's going to be hard to replace the heart and soul of Tedy. I have been a Pats fan for over 30 years and the only other player I respect as much as Bruschi is my man Grogan. Bruschi is the most unselfish player I have ever seen play for the Pats or any team for that matter, and boy when we needed a big play, Ted always seemed to be in the right place at he right time. Tedy your health is more important than any game. I wish you continued success in your rehab. Thanks for giving us some awesome memories. You have my vote for the Pats Hall of Fame I Salute You.
Dan Smith

First of all thank you for being an inspiration for all of us. By the way you did make the right decision by not playing this year. It's heartbreaking for all of us. We love you Teddy! I admit I will miss not picking you before most of the games as my key player of the game. I will miss watching you leap over linemen for a sack and intercepting Peyton Manning like it's a backyard game. Your play on the field will never be forgotten. You don't have anything to prove to us on the playing field ever again. I am sure through some way you will find a way to be on the sidelines this season. Guiding our team with your incredible heart and leadership skills and having your own Tedy Bruschi coaching role. While also leading the Pats in the locker room with your heart and your voice saying "How do we feel about another New England Patriot victory?" "AHHHH YAAA!" As well as using your heart to lead the Patriots players to play above and beyond expectations. So keep using your heart wisely Tedy, we'll always love you. Look at some of your new benefits. You will still one day have two hands filled with rings, you won't be bruised up, you'll be able to enjoy your family, still have all your friends, still make those team road trips, still be the heart of the team, there are endless possibilities for you in the Patriots organization. Let's face it, Tedy Ball Game you should be on the face on the Patriots helmet. You are the meaning of Patriot!! You will always be the heart of our organization. I remember two years ago when you were injured and our team was really hurting without you. Back then we didn't have depth like now which is good for the team's recovery process. We will miss you on the field like a baby misses milk, but thank God we had prepared for the worst. We need you now to teach the youth of our team. We need you to help us as a team to stay on top. You will still be a part of this year and a part of history of the Patriots reign forever! Like the Boston Celtics of old, total domination. Let's win 16 championships! We need you in this organization. Teach all you know to the new talent of our team and see who you feel comfortable with representing you on the field. We all have faith in you!! Just for the record, Tedy, since I have been watching the Pats/football the last 20 years you have to be the most underrated player in the history of the game. You're a Hall of Famer times 10. Anyone who doesn't acknowledge that you were one of the best middle linebackers ever, I don't think should be called a football fan. Even though stats have never mattered to you here's a couple I just saw that I liked: four straight INTs for touchdowns (NFL record), you almost tied the record for sacks in a Super Bowl (3) Bruschi 2, and had seven tackles last Super Bowl. One of my favorite plays I will never forget was you smacking Dominic Rhodes across the whole field like a rag doll and then ripping the ball out of his hands. It's the stuff like that ONLY THE GREAT TEDY BRUSCHI does!
Brian Corrigan

Thank you for the opportunity to voice an opinion: I love watching Tedy and will really miss him, but I'm glad he's not playing. His health is far more important ANY damn football game.
Bill Heaney

I'm happy that Tedy decided to take the season off. He may never play football again. He's fortunate to still be getting paid by the Patriots. Maybe he can pursue an assistant coaching job with the Pats and learn while he's there this year or perhaps he can learn to become a scout for the Pats. Risking his health further may not benefit him. I wish him the best in whatever he does. God bless.Mary Sweeney

Now that the question whether Tedy Bruschi will return to the Patriots this year has been answered, it still leaves the Patriots with a new and very difficult one to consider: what status will Bruschi be under for the upcoming season? From what I've been told what's best for the team would be to put him under non-football related injury, which should give the team some additional cap relief but then Bruschi would not get paid a dime until he comes back and plays. While it would create some cap room, it would royally screw the heart and soul of the Patriots defense (is it worth even beginning to talk about how much he has done for the Patriots organization?), which would be a very unclassy move. The Pats could also put him on the injured reserve list but that slams the door on any possible return that Bruschi might entertain later on (you never know, it is a long season). The physically unable to play list or reserve-retired list are also possibilities. What status do you see the Pats placing Bruschi under next year? Will the Patriots leave the door open for a possible return this year and will they make sure Teddy gets paid even if he sits the year out?
Avi Garritano

First time caller and long time listener here. I'm sure you'll get a lot of these questions, but my inquiry is about Tedy Bruschi. I understand that the Pats can designate Bruschi's status as either injured reserve, non-football-related injury or physically unable to perform. Can you please discuss the ramifications of each from both the team's and the player's perspective? Also, I have another question regarding the [expletive deleted] Squished Fish that I'm hoping you can clear up for me. Ricky Williams has to serve a 4-game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy, but the Dolphins have a bye week in Week 4. Does that mean he will be eligible in Week 5 against Buffalo, or must he wait until Week 6 against the Bucs? Sorry about the Dolphins question, but I felt it was of interest to fellow readers in Patriots Nation. I'll hang up now and listen to your response. Go Pats! This is our year. Again.
Florida Mainah

There are some subtle differences with each designation with the major ones coming between injured reserve and the others. Injured reserve would prohibit a player from coming back at any time during that season. He would not be allowed to practice on the field with the team at any time. PUP and NFI are very similar in terms of football. In both cases (assuming a player opens the season on one of these lists) a player must sit out the first six weeks of the season. Starting in Week 7 he can begin practicing for as long as three weeks before a decision must be made – either he must be activated or placed on injured reserve and be lost for the season. Teams can use a three-week window from Weeks 7-9 to begin the practice window, but once the player first starts practicing, the team is only allowed 21 days to make its decision. If the player is on PUP or IR, the team is responsible for his entire salary for that season. If the player is on NFI, the team wouldn't be obligated to pay the player but could choose to do so anyway. For example, the Browns are not obligated to pay Kellen Winslow's 2005 salary because he was injured in a non-football related activity (riding a motorcycle). According to reports, they haven't asked for any signing bonus money back but could withhold his salary. In Bruschi's case, placing him on PUP would allow him to practice with the team after Week 6 if he/the team wants. IR would be keep him off the field entirely. Even though Bruschi has said he won't play in 2005, that doesn't mean practicing if he feels up to it is out of the question. Basically PUP buys him some time and Bruschi's stroke would be considered a "football related injury."
Massachusetts Texan (see what I did there?)

From what I've read, it sounds like the Patriots may pay Bruschi the salary he was scheduled to earn. I was wondering if it would be possible for Bruschi and the Patriots organization to work out some kind of a deal where he gives up his contract, but say Robert Kraft just gives him the money he was scheduled to earn on the side, so as to free up the money from Bruschi's salary to help sign the draft picks or to sign Seymour or Vinatieri to longer deals
Chris Brownlee

Sure, Chris, there's a way to do it … it's called cheating. Just ask San Francisco or Denver. Those teams have experience in dealing with the salary cap "creatively." The Patriots can't make any "side deals" with Bruschi because it's not allowed. First, because Bruschi hasn't closed the door on playing again in the future, he remains a part of the team and under contract. Therefore, any salary he receives must count against the cap. Assuming the organization pays him the money he's owed, which is a very safe assumption, then the Patriots are going to be responsible for his cap number through the life of the deal unless the league gives them some kind of special dispensation for lack of a better term. That is highly unlikely as injuries, or in this case, health issues, are part of the game. The Patriots are most likely going to put Bruschi on the physically unable to perform list, which means his injury will be deemed "football related." That means his salary is subject to a cap charge.
Paul Perillo

Nobody would argue about the contributions of Bruschi to the team, so let us not get into that. But if the player makes a decision to sit out a season, why should he be paid $850,000? I do not know of any business where the employee gets injured off site, chooses not to work and still collects pay from the company. So my question is, why the contract pays the player if he chooses to sit out the season?Ed

Without even getting into the utter lack of sensitivity in this question, and that has nothing to do with the caliber of player involved, Bruschi is not "choosing" to sit out the season; he is physically unable to play. If the Patriots place him on the physically unable to perform list, as expected, that means the team is deeming Bruschi's stroke a football-related injury. Bruschi will also get paid because it's simply the right thing to do, just as back in 1999 the Patriots paid injured running back Robert Edwards when they were no obligated to do so.
Paul Perillo

Now that Bruschi can't play in '05, is there a chance that he could help out the team by being an assistant linebackers coach or something like that?Nathan Graf

Bruschi has expressed an interest in coaching in the past, but whether he's ready to begin that stage of his career at this point is unknown. He hasn't ruled out a return to the field sometime in the future, and he probably will be around Gillette Stadium during the 2005 season helping in the meeting rooms and on the sideline on game day. But I'm not sure if he'll be working as a coach officially.
Paul Perillo

As a Patriots fan for over 25 years, I am very proud to have players to cheer for of the character of Tedy Bruschi. With that said, and the fact that he has chosen to concentrate on his family and health in 2005 (and I applaud his decision) I was wondering how his salary would affect the Pats cap figure for the upcoming season and beyond.
Chad Allum

Again, assuming the Patriots put him on PUP and pay him for 2005, Bruschi's cap number will be the same as if he played the entire year. The cap number would be whatever his base salary would be in a given year ($850,000 for 2005) plus the prorated portion (one fourth since Bruschi signed a four-year deal) of his signing bonus. If he leaves the door open for a possible return, and the team allows him to keep that door open, the cap number would be calculated in the same manner each year until his deal runs out in 2007.
Paul Perillo

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