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Tedy Bruschi on The Big Show: Patriots have needs to address

07.26.11 at 5:54 pm ET
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The Big Show will get a new voice as former Patriots great Tedy Bruschi will join Glenn Ordway and Michael Holley every Monday from 4-6 p.m. during the NFL season as part of WEEI’s “Patriots Monday.” Bruschi will be on hand to interview coach Bill Belichick each week beginning Aug. 15.

Bruschi made an appearance on Tuesday’s Big Show and touched on a number of Patriots-related topics. To hear the full conversation, check out The Big Show audio on demand page. Here are highlights from his Tuesday appearance.

With the reports of the Patriots releasing linebacker Tully Banta-Cain, Bruschi said the team will need to be aggressive in pursuing an outside linebacker in free agency.

“I think they’ve got to be a little active especially with the reports of what’s happening with [Banta-Cain] out there too,” Bruschi said. “Because if you’re out one more outside linebacker, you’ve got to think about that. You’ve got a problem at that position now, I think. Even going into the draft I was talking about them solidifying that position with that 33rd pick about getting a defensive end or outside linebacker that can help them and provide depth and provide pass rush. And that was when [Banta-Cain] was on the roster. So if [Banta-Cain]‘s cut, then you’ve really got to look at that position to where you’ve got to address free agency. That’s go to be your top priority.

“I think they’ve got a list of priorities at every position in terms of free agency that they would attack at the wide receiver position, the defensive lineman position, the outside linebacker position and they’re just going to go down their list,” he continued. “Let’s remember now, they’ve had all offseason to allot without players so they’ve been formulating their plan for once the lockout lifts, and you can communicate with free agents. Who would we go for first? What would be our top priority? But I think this is a little bit of a curveball with [Banta-Cain] because I don’t think you would have any contact with him. You don’t know what kind of shape he would be in and you’re talking about a player who was questionable in terms of his work ethic throughout his entire career. Possible weight problems, would he come into camp in shape, would he pass the conditioning test? I think the report of the abdominal surgery might have been sort of a last straw for the organization where they decided to cut ties.”

The Patriots are also at risk of losing long-time offensive lineman Matt Light to free agency, and Bruschi said the 11-year pro would leave big shoes to fill if not re-signed.

“I mean, he’s been that staple on that offensive line for so long but … they say [first-round draft pick Nate Solder], they say he’s the next in line. I met the kid, he’s a big strong kid. I mean, great size, but how is he going to be on the right side, on the left side? We’ll see what type of ability he has. If they don’t have Light I still think they’ll be OK, but it will be a huge, huge hole to fill.”

With free agency comes widespread speculation, and Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco is a name that has been tossed around as a potential target for the Patriots. Bruschi did not seem to think it would be a good fit.

“I don’t think [the Patriots will sign him],” Bruschi said. “I don’t think so, because you’re talking about [Ochocinco], he’s 33 years old. What kind of role will he fulfill in this offense? Is he going to be more of the same type of guy as a [Wes] Welker or a Deion [Branch]?. Do you expect [Ochocinco] to spread the field? We never looked at him as that type of receiver and that was five years ago, so more of those underneath routes and things like that. I think they need more of a Sidney Rice type of player. I think he’s younger, he’s coming off some injuries so you’re talking about a lower-level contract, incentive laden, so I think that’s what the Patriots would be more apt to do, rather than waiting for [Ochocinco] to be released, dealing with the drama that he possibly can bring. That’s what I would rather see, is a Rice come in, a potentially healthy Rice. I think he would give the Patriots an extra dimension where you have all the guys that can do the underneath things and you have that Rice type of receiver that gives the team the element they need.

Asked about his thoughts on the lockout, Bruschi acknowledged the work stoppage produced its fair share of winners and losers.

“When you’re talking about a 10-year deal, I think you have labor peace for a long time,” said Bruschi. “I think that’s a positive as a player that you can look forward to having continuity and learning the new system and the new rules and the regulations for the next decade. I think there are some players also that were possibly caught up in sort of bad timing. Like a Logan Mankins, like Vincent Jackson to where last year they should have been free agents and they had that uncapped year, they could have been tagged a certain way. You make less than you should have made and then this year comes around and you maybe get franchised. So there’s a lot of delay and their goal of eventually experiencing unrestricted free agency, I think that hurts a handful of guys with bad timing. But for the overall betterment of the league, I think it helped and is beneficial to owners, players and fans.”

With training camp set to begin this week, Bruschi said players might not be as physically fit as expected, and teams might have to take it slow in the conditioning department.

“I think they cut back on the reps. You have to assume a good percentage of your players are out of shape,” said Bruschi. “You have to assume they did not do the work, even if they come in and they make weight. There’s ways to make weight by dehydrating yourself, starving yourself for three days … all of those tricks of the trade you do to make weight. But then you go out there and run and you pull muscles. You can’t have that. You almost have to take a set of the conditioning reps off, work where your guys are into the conditioning run, starting with that. You can’t bust them out starting with that because you will have hamstring pulls and injuries.”

As part of the new collective bargaining agreement, teams will now have a limit on how often they can practice with pads. Bruschi said this may be a relief to some players, but the limited contact in practice could hurt teams that pride themselves on physical play.

“Let’s just stick with the Patriots and the team they have there with coach [Bill] Belichick,” he said. “He believed if you have a problem, whether it’s in the running game or tackling or fundamentals — you hear coach Belichick preach fundamentals over and over again — you put on the pads. You walk into the facility, you look at the schedule, you see the dress, you almost know that it’s going to be full pads based on the game that you had the week before. With the limited number of pads, I think veterans will be hurt by it also because you need to get that work in to get yourself physically ready for that game. I would always look forward to one day whether it was a Wednesday or a Thursday where we got good work in with pads on. I absolutely hated when it was two days which it was a lot of the time, Wednesday and Thursday full pads, but you had to have one of those days to prepare yourself and to keep your fundamentals sharp. So I think that’s a challenge for coach Belichick actually and how he’s going to be able to teach those guys fundamentals and develop his young players at the same time without pads on.”

“It’s almost something that you look to as your head coach, that he had the power to control the way you worked during the week,” he added. “That provides players with motivation, that, “Guys, lets get this work done today because if we don’t were going to be in full pads the next day, so lets work.” Now they’ve got …  we can only have one padded practice anyway for the next two weeks or something like that, so it doesn’t really matter. That’s where it’s going to be complicated for coaches that have teams that rely on running games, that rely on physical defenses. When you get your work done with those pads, how do they keep those players not only motivated, but almost they have that unspoken threat of, “If we don’t get our work done, we’re going to stay here and do our work until we do.”

Asked about former Patriot linebacker Mike Vrabel‘s decision to retire and take a linebacker coaching job with Ohio State, Bruschi said it was a match made in football heaven.

“He was the most intelligent football player I ever played with, on both sides of the ball. It was incredible with the way he would make adjustments on the field. It would be coming out of my mouth, the adjustments I would be making, and he would be saying them already. We would always be on the same page. The entire defense would be on the same page because of [Vrabel] and the work he did. Championships wouldn’t have been won without him and I think that intelligence is why they hired him over there at Ohio State. It’s perfect for him. All he ever did was talk about the Buckeyes and his college program. I was honored to play with him. Probably my favorite teammate of all time and I’m so proud of him and happy for him.”

Bruschi also shared some kind words about recently departed Myra Kraft, whose funeral service drew tremendous support last Friday.

“I love Myra. My wife and I both love Myra,” Bruschi said. “She was great to us ever since we got there as a rookie. She was great talking to Heidi about what she could expect. I remember a funny story about Myra when I negotiated my own contract early on in my career and I was in the front offices. We were talking contract and Myra actually came into the room and said, “If this guy isn’t a member of this team, then I don’t want to be a part of this organization,” and from that day on I loved her. But she was always my favorite Kraft, and I tell this to Mr. Kraft and Jonathan, no disrespect to them, but we loved Myra and she was really the conscience of the entire organization in my mind … I felt comfortable knowing Myra was there and she was in Robert’s ear all the time. Mr. Kraft and I always talked about our wives and our families and I’m going to miss her a lot.”

Read More: Chad Ochocinco, Matt Light, Patriots, Sidney Rice
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