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Bruschi’s torchbearers

08.31.09 at 2:12 pm ET
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FOXBOROUGH — With Monday’s retirement of Tedy Bruschi, there’s going to be a huge leadership void in the Patriots locker room to fill.

So big, in fact, that many of the veterans realize no one single player will be able to pull it off — not for now, at least.

“Leadership, it was always a key with that guy,” nose tackle Vince Wilfork said of No. 54. “You knew exactly what you had when he was on the field. We have a bunch of guys around here. It’s going to be tough but at the same time I think we have enough veterans on this team to that we can all rally together to put together what those guys like Troy Brown and Tedy started. Now they’re basically passing it to us. I think with the group of guys we have in here, we’ll continue it.”

And one of those guys is 33-year-old Kevin Faulk, who now becomes the player with the most seniority on the Patriots at 11 seasons.

“It’s going to take a handful of guys,” Faulk said. “A lot of the guys, younger guys, older guys, veteran guys, just guys that understand what’s at stake here, what we have to do as football team, and that’s come together. He’s older than me. Ever since I came in, he’s been making big plays. It’s just seeing him each and every week with the emotion he needs to play this game.”

Faulk and Wilfork were just two of the Patriots to sit down in a room off the locker room and watch Bruschi’s press conference. And they also heard an unmistakable message from their coach Bill Belichick. “The torch has been passed,” the coach said in a not so subtle message that the void will have to be filled.

And it’s likely a veteran like Faulk will play a role in accomplishing that mission. Faulk, like the rest of New England and the NFL, probably was more amazed by his return from a stroke in 2005 than any tackle or interception he ever made on the field.

“You take people lessons and you integrate them into them into your football into your life and you should be alright,” Faulk said. “And that’s what he taught a lot of guys on this team after the stroke that he had.”

Faulk couldn’t help but think, while watching the press conference. how content Bruschi appeared in calling it a career.

“I was watching it,” Faulk said. “And it’s just like he said, he’s content with what he’s done. There’s more than one thing. When you say Tedy Bruschi’s name, there’s more than one thing you can think about that he’s done. There’s a handful, maybe two or three handfuls. That’s why he content with what he’s doing right now.”

Faulk also agreed with Bruschi, saying that he has no single moment or highlight that sticks out.

“There’s a million of them,” Faulk said. “Just the inspiration that he gives to this team and individuals, in general. That’s him.”

Bruschi always brought energy and urgency to everything he did, not only on game days but in practice, film and workouts.

“The anxiety to play,” Faulk said of the biggest lesson he took from Bruschi. “Like he said, we only play once a week. All week long, we’re practicing against ourselves, thinking about the oppponent and we come there one day and that’s that one day we get to let our agression out against our opponent.

“Coach Belichick had that same expectation for every last one of the guys in the room. It’s just that Bruschi was that much more exceptional with what he’s done and working hard in the film room and everything,” Faulk added.

Back-up quarterback Andrew Walter only spent half of a training camp with Bruschi. Yet, he was left with a lasting impression.

“Passion would be a word to describe him,” Walter said. “From what I’ve seen away from the Patriots and here, he was one of the first guys to introduce himself when I got here. I’ve heard that twice just this morning and people that were new to the organization, he was one of the first people to introduce himself. As a somebody who obviously had won Super Bowls, been around forever and somebody you wouldn’t expect to do that but he did.”

While Faulk and Walter could appreciate him from the other side of the ball, Wilfork played in front on Bruschi on defense.

“It’s shocking,” Wilfork said. “But 13 years is a long time. He’s been playing at this level, a high level for a long, long time. These guys in the locker room can tell you what he meant to this team. He’s every bit of a player that you would want in a player on and off the field.

“Being a teammate and the plays that he’s made around here, there’s a lot of memories he going to take with him and he’s going to leave on us. Between Troy Brown and himself, they’re probably the two greatest teammates that I have played with that have retired,” Wilfork said.

Wilfork and Bruschi worked in tandem going through the ups and downs together since 2004.

“Being able to play with a guy like that, sometimes it made my job a little easier, sometimes I made his job easier,” Wilfork said. “Sometimes we had our ups and downs in a game but at the same time we had a lot of fun and made a lot of plays together.

“He played the game the way it needed to be played and I respect him for that,” Wilfork added. “I’m glad he’s going out basically on top. He has a beautiful family he will enjoy. I just told him, ‘Don’t be calling me in the offseason to be playing golf.’ He might be a scratch golfer by then. But he’s in high spirits.”

Read More: Kevin Faulk, Tedy Bruschi, Vince Wilfork,
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