FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (Oct. 17) -- New England Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi plans to return to practice on Oct. 19, eight months after having a mild stroke.
Bruschi was cleared by his doctors to begin practicing this week, but the Patriots left it up to Bruschi and his family to determine when he would return.
Bruschi was one of the defensive stars on a team that has won three Super Bowl titles in the last four seasons. The Patriots are 3-3 so far this season and have allowed 27.3 points per game, most in the AFC.
"I want to help this team any way I can," he said at a news conference at Gillette Stadium. "They tell me I can play, I know I can play, so, shoot, let's just play."
Bruschi didn't say when he planned to play in a game. The Patriots have a bye this week and return to action Oct. 30 at home against Buffalo.
"I'm going to let Bill decide that," Bruschi said. "I'm another player on this team and will get evaluated by coach Belichick. ... When they see me and they evaluate me on how I look in practice, I'm sure that decision will be made."
Bruschi has been on the physically unable to perform list all season, meaning he can practice with the Patriots after the sixth week of the regular season, which ends Oct. 17.
NFL rules give him three more weeks to start practicing, and then the team would have three weeks to decide whether to place him on the active roster. Had he been placed on injured reserve, he would not have been able to return this season.
"Physically, Tedy is completely back to normal, and is completely healthy," Dr. David Greer, a specialist from Massachusetts General Hospital who has monitored Bruschi since his stroke, said in a statement.
The linebacker made his first Pro Bowl appearance in February, but was hospitalized three days later after complaining of numbness in his left arm and left leg. In March, he underwent surgery to repair a small hole in his heart.
The 32-year-old Bruschi had said as recently as last month that he would not play this season. But he has been working out in the Patriots' weight room, attending team meetings and standing on the sideline at home games.
"It was a traumatic experience," he said. "It's a long road back. So I'm not going to jump back in unless I'm absolutely 100 percent positive I'm ready. And I am."
An emotional player with a knack for being in the right spot on the field, Bruschi is in his fourth season as a defensive captain.
The Patriots drafted Bruschi in 1996 in the third round out of Arizona and he became a full-time starter in 1999. He was second on the team in tackles last year, when the Patriots allowed the third fewest points in the NFL and won their second straight Super Bowl.