Tedy Bruschi finds escape in golf

By Todd Dewey, Contributor

LAS VEGAS -- Tedy Bruschi, a defensive captain on the Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots, said one of the main lures of the links for him is playing a ballgame on grass where he doesn't get hit.

"I love being outdoors and being on some beautiful turf. I work on grass also, and it puts me back there. I can be pretty competitive with my brother without someone blindsiding me," said Bruschi, a native of California who bought a home in Las Vegas three years ago.

Bruschi, one of the most intense players on the Patriots, with whom he has played in three Super Bowls and helped them win two, tied the NCAA Division I career sack record while at the University of Arizona.

Bruschi, a 6-foot-1, 247-pound linebacker who played defensive end for the Wildcats, set a school record with 19 sacks as a sophomore and finished with 52 sacks, tying him with the late Derrick Thomas, a former Alabama and Kansas City Chiefs standout.

Ironically, Bruschi, a three-time All-American and two-time finalist for the Lombardi Trophy, never hit the links while in the golf mecca of Arizona.

"I didn't really get into golf until my first year in the NFL," he said. "The bottom line was I couldn't afford any clubs."

After getting drafted by the Pats in the third round of the 1996 NFL Draft, though, Bruschi decided to take up the game, and has developed an annual offseason rivalry with his brother Tony, a construction supervisor in Las Vegas.

"I don't really golf for competition. I get plenty of that from football. Golf is strictly for enjoyment and fun, but whenever I'm in Las Vegas, me and my brother have a competition," he said. "Whenever I get around my brother, our juices really get flowing and we've got to get out.

"We golf to see who has bragging rights. I had a three-year win streak, but he came back and got me pretty good this offseason."

Bruschi and his brother have played at several courses in Las Vegas, including the now-defunct Desert Inn, the Badlands, TPC Canyons and Rhodes Ranch.

Bruschi, who recently returned to Massachusetts for the Patriots' offseason conditioning program, golfs with teammates Adam Vinatieri and Ted Johnson when he's back East.

"Adam was on fire the other day, but kickers have plenty of time to find time for their golf game. Us linebackers have aches and pains to deal with," he said. "I don't really have a handicap. I golfed a 90 at TPC Norton, and that's a good score for me."

Bruschi said he's completely healed from last season and is already focused on making another run at the Super Bowl.

Not big enough to earn a spot on the defensive line in the NFL, Bruschi was a role player his rookie year, when the Pats lost to the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XXXI, but eventually he broke through as a starting linebacker.

"It was a tough adjustment, but I feel I established a role right away, rushing the passer and playing on special teams," he said. "That role kept me on the team and I learned the linebacker position in the meantime, so when that chance came, I was ready."

The high-energy Bruschi scored his first touchdown on any level his rookie season, and capped off the campaign with a pair of sacks in the Super Bowl.

He played in every game his first three seasons and then made a career-high 138 tackles in 1999, starting 14 games at linebacker and all 16 in 2000.

Bruschi, who has 21 1/2 career sacks, returned two interceptions for touchdowns in each of the last two seasons and has come up with seven of his eight career picks the last three years.

He had 131 tackles and three interceptions last season, including one he took back for a score in a 12-0 shutout of the Miami Dolphins that clinched the AFC East title.

Bruschi said this year's world title proved the Patriots are for real.

"I think this one proved our first championship was no accident. This year we proved we can not only win a championship, but do it in dominant fashion," he said. "Winning 15 in a row is all you have to say about that.

"Now I'm back here 100 percent and ready to go back to training camp and make another run at the Super Bowl. We've won it twice and our next goal is to win our third world championship."

Bruschi said his goals are simple - to win.

"If you get caught up in individual goals, they mess up your mind and you're not seeing the big picture, and the big picture is winning football games," he said. "I don't get caught up in Pro Bowls and leading the league in tackles. I don't like the term Pro Bowl-caliber player. I like being a championship-caliber player.

"Every year I try to improve upon last year. It will be my ninth year next year and I've done that every year, improved as a football player and linebacker. I just had my best year as a pro and I'll try to build on that for next year."

Bruschi enjoys spending time with his family in the offseason and said seeing Luciano Pavarotti at Caesar's Palace with his wife was the highlight.

"I like seeing shows and seeing what Vegas offers besides gambling," he said.

Bruschi also spoke to a Little League team in Las Vegas and read at an elementary school in the offseason, along with a trip to Fenway Park for Opening Day. He's also slated to go to the White House soon and will also represent the Patriots at the ESPY Awards.

Whenever his schedule becomes too hectic, though, Bruschi can always find refuge on the golf course.

"I like seeing the perfect drive going straight down the fairway, with the trees in the background, and the overall peace it gives me," he said.

Todd Dewey, Contributor

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