FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - Three days before he broke his wrist, Tedy Bruschi didn’t want to compare training camps — the one he missed last summer because of a stroke and the one he felt fine in this summer.
“This is a new year,” the New England Patriots linebacker and defensive signal-caller said on the opening day. “I had a great offseason and this year I’m looking just to have a good year.”
The comparisons were unavoidable when Bruschi underwent surgery Wednesday and his teammates addressed his loss for at least the entire exhibition season.
“His presence, his leadership, his vocal (presence), his mental understanding of the game is huge for us,” safety Rodney Harrison said. “Right now, Tedy has an issue and, fortunately for us, we have time right now. We have other guys. We get a chance to look at other young guys.”
Bruschi, entering his 11th season with the Patriots, was hurt on July 31, just the fourth day of camp, and hasn’t practiced since. Two days later, coach Bill Belichick said, “His wrist is probably sore. I’m sure he has a lot of sore body parts. He’s day-to-day.”
On Tuesday night, after Bruschi missed his 10th straight workout, Belichick confirmed that Bruschi had a broken wrist and would not play in any exhibition games.
“The information was new information and I was asked a question so I answered it truthfully,” Belichick said Wednesday, “as I did the week before.”
He said he didn’t know if Bruschi would need surgery, then added, “I said everything I’m going to say about that.”
A few hours later, team spokesman Stacey James said Bruschi had surgery Wednesday.
Belichick hasn’t said which wrist Bruschi broke or whether the player would be ready for the regular season opener on Sept. 10 at home against Buffalo.
The Patriots didn’t have Bruschi last training camp, so they might be better able to adjust to his loss this time.
“I don’t know,” Belichick said. “We’re on a new year, so we’ve got new people this year.”
Bruschi had a stroke on Feb. 16, 2005, and the Patriots began last season with newcomers Monty Beisel and Chad Brown at inside linebacker. Bruschi returned for the seventh game.
This summer, Bruschi and Beisel began camp as the first-stringers inside. Now Patriots veterans Don Davis, Larry Izzo, and free agent pickup Barry Gardner, primarily a special teams player in his other seven NFL seasons, are among those filling in for Bruschi.
“Any time you come in a new system, you definitely have to learn from those who come before you,” Beisel said, “and (Bruschi) has definitely been a guy that’s been around here for a number of years.”
The Patriots linebacking corps has been thinned out by the retirement of inside linebacker Ted Johnson the day before training camp last year and the loss of outside linebacker Willie McGinest as a free agent to Cleveland after last season.
“We’ve been having to deal with that for the last few years,” Davis said, “so a guy goes down and that makes an opportunity for somebody else to step up.”
The Patriots also lost kicker Adam Vinatieri and wide receiver David Givens to free agency and have been without their top receiver, Deion Branch, who is holding out for a new contract.
The team did get Harrison, center Dan Koppen, defensive end Richard Seymour, cornerback Randall Gay and defensive lineman Johnathan Sullivan back Monday from the physically-unable-to-perform list.
Without Bruschi, their leading tackler over the last five seasons, the only remaining starting linebacker from the 2004 season, when the Patriots won their most recent Super Bowl and third in four seasons, is linebacker Mike Vrabel. He is back at his outside spot after starting the last 11 games last season inside next to Bruschi.
“I like playing with Tedy just because he’s a great friend and we know a lot about each other,” Vrabel said. “We’re pretty similar so I think that when you see us out there there’s a lot of interaction.”
There’s another similarity: Vrabel also missed a good portion of last year’s training camp after hurting his ankle in the first exhibition game and sitting out the remaining three.
“I don’t think it helped me. I think that the games are important,” he said. “To what extent, I think that’s personal.”
The Patriots play their exhibition opener Friday night in Atlanta without Bruschi.
They probably won’t have Brown either. He re-signed just before training camp but has been out with a hand injury of unknown severity.
“He’s got a sore hand,” Belichick said.
Might it be broken?
“I’m not sure,” he added.