Former Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi addresses the media during his conference call on Wednesday, December 1, 2010. Bruschi will be honored at Gillette Stadium on Monday Night Football against the New York Jets.
Q: How do you think the Jets have had relative success against the Patriots in the last few games? Could you talk about the development of Mark Sanchez?
TB: I think the Jets have had success against the Patriots because number one, they're a good team. They've been performing well in critical situations of games. I think they've proven that throughout this year. They've made the big play when they've had to. Whenever you have a strong, physical running attack, I think that bodes well versus the New England Patriots. You saw what Peyton Hillis did, and I think what the Jets did in the first game rushing for 136 yards. That's always something that, even when I played with New England, if you had a physical running game it was about their strength against your strength and challenging them that way. It looks like the Jets have had the upper hand on that recently. The development of Mark Sanchez, I think this year has really been a benchmark year for him in terms of developing leadership. The comments I made earlier in the year were I thought he was a frontrunner and when things went bad, he tanked it a little bit. That's what I said, and I think I was wrong in my assessment because ever since then I've watched him really closely and I really wanted to see if he improved, especially with his leadership within that team. I felt early on in the year that the Jets would have success running the ball, playing good defense and that was their formula. They've shown that they now have another aspect of their team, and that's leadership from the quarterback position. Mark's really proven me wrong in my assessment. I was definitely wrong in that assessment that I would think he's a front-runner. He's proven that he is a leader of that team, and guys rally around him. When he went down in Cleveland with that knee injury, and he didn't know if he was coming back, he came back and led his team to victory. I've been watching the kid really closely. He's really earned my respect this year and I'm happy for him.
Q: How do you see the game playing out?
TB: It's a match up of probably two of the top three teams in the NFL. To put it simply, I think whoever takes care of the ball better is going to win this game. The Patriots defense gives up yards and the only way they've been able to stop the bleeding is by forcing turnovers. Those interceptions by James Sanders, and [Devin] McCourty, and [Brandon] Meriweather, can they continue that? Because I think they'll need to be plus two in the turnover ratio to win this game. Are the Jets probably going to gain a lot of yards offensively? Yes, I think so. But the Patriots have shown that they can make the big play in critical moments now. Are they the New Orleans Saints defense from last year when they were so opportunistic in making big plays? That's yet to be seen, but it looks like that's who the Patriots are defensively right now. They give up a lot of statistical numbers, but they make the big play when it counts. Can they do that, or can the New York Jets take care of the ball? Can Rex Ryan show enough looks defensively to really slow down the Patriots offense? He did a great job in the first game of mixing in three man rushes when you thought pressure was coming. Six or seven times he was in three-man rush. You're like, 'Wait a minute. They're not coming. They're not blitzing.' He drew the Patriot offense off at times with that max coverage principle instead of the max blitzes. Rex Ryan may have to do another great job of calling a good game.
Q: Right now there are seven retired numbers, is that something you aspired to achieve earlier in your playing days?
TB: It was never really my goal to have my number retired. I wanted to win championships, and whatever came with that, so be it. I know the Patriots have a good amount of numbers that are retired. I would love to see a linebacker in the future wear number '54' and perform well. I would love to see that. All retired numbers of the New England Patriots should be unretired and other players should be able to wear those numbers. [They should] realize the history of the number and who wore that number before and the standard that they should try and uphold of past players. Especially next year with possibly rosters expanding and more players on the active roster, you never know what's going to happen, if there's an 18-game schedule there's going to be more numbers needed. There are a lot of players on a football team and you need more numbers. Un-retire the numbers. Adding a little bit of nostalgia to Gillette Stadium and maybe a 'Ring of Honor' or a 'Ring of Fame.' I've gone into visiting stadiums before and you look around to see names and dates of players that have played there. It really adds a sense of history to a stadium. I think that'd be a great thing to add at Gillette. That's something I would look forward to seeing in that stadium.
Q: So you see it more as a passing the history and tradition of the number to the next guy?
TB: Yeah, I think so. To say that no player can ever wear number '54' for the New England Patriots again, that's sort of selfish. I think that other players deserve to know and realize what has gone on in the organization. I remember before one Super Bowl when Andre Tippett made the Hall of Fame, and [Mike] Vrabel wore '56' out to practice in an old jersey in honor of Tip. That planted a seed in my head. That'd be cool if another player wore '56'. If I went in there as a rookie and was given a number like that, it would help me remember some of the past players that have played before with that number, some of the great linebackers or offensive linemen, all the numbers that are retired. I think it would add a sense of history to the team and more responsibility to some of the players that would realize what number they're wearing. Dallas is a good example. I think they had a ceremony for a 'Ring of Honor' there. Dez Bryant is wearing '88' now and he knows what he has to live up to with that number. That's a great sense of nostalgia and tradition when I see Dez Bryant wearing some of those Michael Irvin, Drew Pearson, and those old numbers. It's nice to see.
Q: Your thoughts on the second meeting between the Patriots and Jets. How can this match up be different for the Jets and their defense?
TB: I think conceptually it's going to be interesting to see how Rex Ryan calls the game. You don't have Randy Moss to account for anymore, and if you'd still implement some of those max coverage concepts like you did in the first game. But the Patriot offense is back to spreading the ball. You run your routes, and you don't know if you're getting the ball or not. You're going to get the ball if you're open, that's what they've wanted for a long time and they want all those receivers to understand that every single route is important, every single step you take is important, and it all works together with route concepts and threatening and challenging weaknesses in the defense. Not just one player. Of course it was Randy, but certain plays were not based on whether Randy could get open deep or not, then you go to your other reads. I think this is when Tom Brady is best, when he reads an entire field. All those receivers are starting to understand that, and that's why you're seeing the distribution of the ball throughout the game now.
Q: Is the offense similar to the offense they ran when you played?
TB: I think it's similar, yeah. Similar to where you don't know who the star is going to be from week-to-week. Will it be [Danny] Woodhead, or [Deion] Branch, or [Wes] Welker, [Rob] Gronkowski catching three touchdowns, [Aaron] Hernandez catching two. You don't know where it's going to come from and that makes it extremely difficult to prepare for as a defensive coordinator. That's the challenge that the Patriots want to present to every single team. You can go ahead and focus on one aspect, we'll see where your focus is within couple of series, we'll get to the sideline and adjust to it, and all of the sudden you'll have to make adjustments. Will your adjustments be better than ours? You talk about it's going to be physical, it's going to be aggressive, yes, but within that it's going to be a chess match of who makes the best in game adjustments. I think that will be exciting to watch.
Q: Your thoughts on the young members of the Patriots defense - Brandon Spikes, Jerod Mayo - starting to come into form as the season progresses?
TB: I think Jerod Mayo has made great strides in being one of the top linebackers in the NFL. I think he will tell you that there's still another step that he needs to take in becoming that linebacker that can make plays that change the course of games and with that I'm talking about forcing a fumble, scoring a touchdown, interceptions, things like that. I think he's getting a reputation out there of being a tackling machine, and you want that as a linebacker, but more importantly you want to be a threat back in the middle of the field of being able to make a play, taking advantage of a mistake. [Where] all of the sudden there's Mayo making the play to win the game. I think that's still there in his progression. I think he'll make that because I don't think he's a thumper. Thumper meaning all he does is take on blocks, shed blocks and make tackles. No, Jerod Mayo plays every single down for this team and he does that because he has the skill to cover, stop the run, and do it all. He has the complete game. There's going to be a developmental play or process where he realizes how to get that extra step and how to make that big play and that's going to happen for him soon I think. Brandon Spikes, right now, is a first and second down linebacker for this team and he's done a great job playing the mike and stopping the run, and doing everything that they've asked of him. For a rookie being able to do what he's done I think has been very impressive. I'll tell you what, I know it's Tedy Bruschi night, and there's one thing I would wish for the night, it would be snow. That's just me. That's just the way I've always felt most comfortable in that stadium is when the snow came down and I just knew we were going to win when it snowed in Gillette, in Foxborough. I think snow would be a perfect touch. My kids might not like it, but I've got them coming in heavy-duty winter gear, so a little bit of snow would be nice.
Q: When you had big games like this that had playoff implications, how much do you put in it emotionally? How much do players really get involved in the hype?
TB: It makes it more exciting. You feel the excitement during the week. You come into the locker room and see you see a huge media crowd. I'm sure the media crowd in the locker room this week will be bigger than when they played the Detroit Lions or the Buffalo Bills. You can sense the urgency and the attention that the game gets.
Q: Is this a must win situation for both these teams?
TB: I look at these two teams as two teams that will be there in the end. But the opportunity to send a message within your division and possibly putting a team behind you, we always talked about playing divisional games, when you have an opportunity to put a team behind you, take advantage of it. I think that's what opportunity the Jets have right now is to get that, to get another victory versus the Patriots. You'd be putting a team in your division behind you and establishing a clear position in the driver's seat of the division.