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Belichick expects linebacker back in 2006

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (Sept. 2, 2005) -- With his focus on the season opener, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick still can look forward to something good in 2006 -- the return of linebacker Tedy Bruschi.

Belichick said discussions he's had with Bruschi, who suffered a mild stroke in February, are similar to the player's comments in a published interview that he would play in 2006 after skipping the 2005 season.

"I support whatever Tedy does 100 percent. He's part of the family. We all love him," Belichick said in a conference call. "The comments that he made are consistent with what we talked about in the past, so we're going to proceed on that course."

Bruschi is on the physically unable to perform list, meaning he must miss the first six games of the season that begins with a home game against the Oakland Raiders. He said in the Boston Globe interview that there's no chance he would play this season, but "I'm definitely playing next year.

"That's my ace in the hole. It's a little hard to sit back and watch the guys (this season), but it's easier knowing I've got something to look forward to."

He has been a vocal and emotional leader of the Patriots teams that won three of the last four Super Bowls, including the last two. He also called defensive signals and was outstanding against both the run and the pass.

He suffered a stroke 10 days after the 24-21 win over the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl -- just three days after playing in his first Pro Bowl. He is being paid his $850,000 salary this year and has been working out at Gillette Stadium.

Bruschi broke his silence about his future in an interview with the Globe at his home in North Attleboro.

He said the stroke resulted from a blood clot doctors believe traveled through a small hole in his heart. He also said he underwent a procedure in March to repair the hole and that the origin and cause of the clot have not been determined.

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