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Tedy Bruschi on D&H: Linebackers have potential

10.19.10 at 4:40 pm ET

Tedy Bruschi joined the Dale & Holley show on Monday to discuss the team’s linebacking corps and being around his old team.

The ESPN analyst also talked about spending time around the Patriots and how surprised he was with Deion Branch’s first game back with the team.

Below is a full transcript of the interview with Bruschi. To hear the full audio transcript, visit the Dale & Holley Audio-on-Demand Page.

What was your take on the helmet-to-helmet hits?

I think those are some vicious hits, some of them blatant. I think that some of these defenders so have time to make a proper decision-to either hit the head or hit the shoulder and what to hit with. So I think that it’s good that the NFL is being proactive and doing something about it because the rule is in place. The rule is fine in what it states word-for-word but the proper enforcement [isn’t]. The players are going to take their chances, lay out guys and just deal with the ramifications.

What were your experiences with some helmet-to-helmet hits?

You’re put in situations during games where you have that moment; you see that defenseless receiver or you see that defenseless quarterback and you have a decision to make on whether to lay him out or make the tackle. The one instance I had, it was against the Buffalo Bills at home. I believe the quarterback was Todd Collins, there was a long time where he was playing for the Bills. I broke through on a blitz and I had him clear in my sights and I decided to launch myself. I launched myself right into his upper body and I broke his collarbone and he was out for most of the weeks after that.

That was sort of an instance where I had a decision to make, where do I try to make the big hit or do I just tackle a guy? And in my mind, in that point of my career I decided to launch myself upwards of  his upper body and his head because at that point I knew about not hitting quarterbacks helmet-to-helmet or anything like that. But once again the seed had not been planted in my head that there were serious ramifications for this. So I launched myself, he suffered an injury and you know I get the FedEx later in the week. I think I was fined $15 or $20 thousand dollars and you just move on from there.

Do you think Brandon Meriweather could or should be suspended for his hit?

If there is anyone this week that has a possibility of doing that it’s probably Brandon. I don’t like to say that, but in that game also there was an instance where Heap caught his touchdown pass and Brandon also launched himself at Heap at that point and he missed. So that showed intent with him and his mentality in that game, and then later of course he had the big hit on Heap where the mouthpiece went flying and Heap suffered a neck injury. He [Heap] ended up coming back but in my mind I think both of those instances where instances that could have been prevented and Brandon could of made better decisions.

He, unfortunately for the Patriots defense, may be the player they [the NFL] make an example of. That plants the seed that I’m talking about; all of these other players, that happens in a game and “I’m like man-I won’t be there next week for my teammates.” So I think he may be made an example of, yes.

Was Meriweather’s hit a game-changer for the Patriots?

Knowing the result of the hit, and knowing that Heap was potentially seriously injured on that play, I don’t agree. Because after a hit like that, if I was a player on the field I think I would have shut it off and my concern would have been for Todd Heap. ‘Is he OK?’ I don’t know if that would have got me going at all. I think that there were plenty of other big plays that I would point to. That defense especially: making them punt the last five times in regulation and overtime. The way they were able to tackle and break up on those check downs by [Joe] Flacco and make key tackles to stop their drives. I think those were the big plays that I would focus on defensively rather than someone being injured like that.

Do you think James Harrison’s hit on Mohamed Massaquoi could draw a suspension?

That’s the other one I believe. If they want to make a huge example like they’ve been talking about this week then they should suspend them both. Suspend Meriweather, suspend Harrison because the moment that I’m talking about is when a player cocks himself in a ready position. And when I say that I mean, visualize a football position, when all your coaches in Pop Warner say ‘break down’ and your knees are bent, your back is bowed and your eyes are up. You are in that position right before the moment of contact; and when that moment of contact comes is you make that decision: whether to target under the chin in that helmet area with your helmet or to roll your shoulder into it.

And I think there were examples of players making decisions to inflict harm on the upper extremities of the body: the head, the neck area, that’s the Harrison hit, that’s the Meriweather hit. I think the Jim Leonhard hit is an example of how quickly you can be moving and still have control of your body to where you still put your forearm up, you roll your head away, you lead with your shoulder. I think those are the proper ways to do it, great examples this week of of proper ways to do it and improper ways.

Is the NFL becoming too soft?

I don’t think so. You can still crush a man’s sternum and I think that is legal. You can still get big hits that way. Michael [Holley], guys are quicker out there. I mean who is quicker: Dick Butkus or Ray Lewis? They were about the same size, playing middle linebacker, but Ray Lewis is going to deliver blows that are much more vicious and much more violent because he’s much more of an athlete. He [Lewis] is stronger, he’s quicker now.

And with that you have more violent collisions, so they have to enforce these rules. I don’t think they are getting soft I think that they care about player’s safety. As a defensive player, I do want to go out there and inflict pain on someone. I still think think it is positive that the NFL is doing to protect all their players because it can also come over to the defensive side of the ball. When someone crack-back blocks or ear-holes a linebacker or a safety on a block, I think that later on in the week they can watch those films to review those hits. And not only on the offensive side of the ball but protecting defensive players also.

Did you have these thoughts when you were a player?

Here it is, and I’ll tell you about all the Patriots players, they think it, they talk about it all the time but when they get there in your studio in front of that mic there’s a filter. My filter has just been removed a little bit.

Were you surprised by Deion Branch’s success against the Ravens?

Yes, I was very surprised because of getting reacclimated in the offense. I know that they [Branch and Tom Brady] have history and have chemistry but to show that kind of chemistry the very first game back, when you haven’t even had a full week and a half of practice reps, I didn’t think that would happen. Going into the game, I thought seeing a little more Brandon Tate and giving him a chance and then having a package of plays for Deion Branch would be the way to go.

But to see that with Tom, I think you’re understanding why Tom was so emotional and upset when they let Deion go in the first place. Just the third-and-two situation late in the game, where I think Deion ran just a little hook route and used his hands to grab the defender, push him by and turn around and the ball was their in perfect timing.Usually when a receiver uses his hands to gain separation a quarterback never knows when he’s going to be truly free from that separation to gain that completion. But it looked seamless. I think that is very surprising to see stuff like that.

What is it like dealing with Patriot players as a member of the media when you criticize them?

The relationships I still have with a lot of those players and coaches are still strong but Coach [Bill] Belichick taught me when I was there to do my job. I finished my football job with the Patriots and now I sort of have a different job. I sort of take his same teachings with me, I’m supposed to my job and do it well but and that’s what I try to do. But when I hear people coming out of the locker room and saying what you are saying, I say to myself: “You know what that’s exactly what I would do to if I was in the locker room.”

The people in that locker room is what is most important and if outside forces are a little bit critical at times, like I am, of the team and some of the decisions or some of the moves being made on the football field, you band together. You think they’re going to say, “O ya he’s right. That shouldn’t happen and we didn’t do that well,”? No you stick together and if I was in that locker room and someone else that was on that team was out there doing it, I would defend my team first before any former player.

On Troy Brown being in the same boat:

Well that is something that Troy understands also. Troy is meant to do what he is paid to do now and that’s what we understood as players and now what we’re trying to do as analysts. Understanding the way they are in that locker room helps me, knowing that you have to protect yourself first and as a team. Later on in years down the road, Vince Wilfork, he’s effervescent that man, he’s definitely going to be an analyst one day too I see that. He does very well when I listen to him. But I always revert back to and it helps me, is how I was in that locker room and if it happened if I was in there, I’d do the same thing.

Would you be ragging on Brady for the hair?

Probably from day one of training camp. Tom’s had all looks, he’s had it short, he’s had it buzzed and now he’s had it a little bit long but I’d give him a lot of grief about it in the locker room.

Do you think that the Patriots linebacker will be reliable and dependable by Week 7, Week 8?

Absolutely, I do. I see those early developmental problems with [Brandon] Spikes and I saw those same things with Jerod [Mayo] had. They are the same problems that I had, as a young linebacker, and it is just those things that you see when you are watching the game. I cheer for the Patriots, I cheer for my boys to win the game but still I watch it critically. As the play happens, the fans may explode in eruption and cheer but I’m always asking myself why did that happen? And in the Bruschi on Tap column on that’s what I try to do.

I could easily state the obvious but why? Why are they getting those completions over the middle? Why did the offense look different? I think that’s an angle I try to take why are these things happening  because it’s amazing what you learn from the linebacker position. How much you have to know when you play: you have to know about coverage, you have to know about fronting, you have to know about offensive lineman protection, you have to know about deeper routes. The linebacker position is the quarterback on defense position, you have to know a lot.

The linebackers definitely have that potential to get better because the progression of the linebackers especially coming into the NFL, those are the difficult things to see. The pre-snap tease, and when I say the pre-snap tease I’m talking about lineman, white knuckles, where the running backs are looking, the cadences from the quarterback is what Spikes will learn over time. This is what Jerod is teaching him and [Jermaine] Cunningham is showing off athletically on the outside on the edge, [Rob] Nikovich has made some big plays. I think that there is the potential to be a good group, Week 7, 8, 9 and especially in the later part of the season.

Which one of the new guys on defense do you like the best?

Spikes. Maybe that’s why I wanted to point that out on Spikes [pre-snap tease issues in Bruschi’s column] that’s one of the things, I think he can do so well. Stature wise he is bigger than I was but I like his instincts and that’s the way I played also: instinctive, you feel certain things and dealing with certain blocks in certain ways. I like the potential he has and the things that he has shown and it is not an easy problem to fix but it will get fixed with hard work. I know he works hard to fix what reads he gets during a play and that’s one example of why I’m very excited about watching the development of Brandon Spikes.

Do you like this Patriots team?

I do. I think after the Baltimore game it really woke me up, they had that sort of look. What I felt watching the game and how they fought towards the end, that’s the way games are won and are going to be won down the stretch. You’ve got a defense that keeps it close, and although they struggled in the beginning of the game towards the end they made the plays to keep it close and gave the offense a chance to win the game. And when you have Tom Brady back their with the ball and an opportunity to win, your chances are great. So I like the way they are developing offensively, offensively Randy [Moss] was a great player, Randy was as a player, and I loved him as a teammate, but I think they are more exciting without him.



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