Bruschi breaks silence, vows return in 2006 Associated Press NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. -- New England Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi says he plans to play next year after taking this season off to recover from a mild stroke. Bruschi, in an interview with The Boston Globe, broke his silence about his future, which he said includes conducting a public awareness campaign about strokes. He was stricken in February. "I'm definitely playing next year," he said in the interview from his North Attleborough home. "That's my ace in the hole. It's a little hard to sit back and watch the guys [this season], but it's easier knowing I've got something to look forward to." Bruschi suffered a stroke 10 days after the Patriots beat the Philadelphia Eagles 24-21 in the Super Bowl -- just three days after playing in his first Pro Bowl. The Patriots put Bruschi on the physically unable to perform list, which allows them to pay him his $850,000 salary this year, and he has been working out at Gillette Stadium. "My goal is to play football again, but it wouldn't have been my goal if my doctors weren't on board and my family wasn't on board. They are," he said in the Globe's Friday editions. Bruschi said there's no chance he will return at any point this season to the Patriots, who kick off their season next Thursday against Oakland at home. "I need the year to get myself ready," he said. A 250-pound defensive lineman at Arizona who was converted to linebacker as a rookie in 1996, Bruschi was second on the team in total tackles last season with 122 as the Patriots won their second straight Super Bowl and third in four years. Bruschi confirmed that the stroke was the result of a blood clot that doctors believe traveled through a small hole in his heart. He also confirmed that he underwent a procedure in March to repair it. He said the origin and cause of the clot have never been determined. Bruschi said he's finally talking publicly about his ordeal because he wants to educate people about the dangers of strokes. He plans to work with the American Stroke Association. The morning he had the stroke, he woke up at 4 a.m. experiencing pain in his neck. He shrugged off the pain and returned to sleep. But at 10 a.m. the numbness on his left side persisted, and when he realized he had vision problems, he asked his wife to call 911. His wife, Heidi, erroneously reported in the widely replayed 911 call that the numbness was on the right side. A CAT scan at Massachusetts General Hospital revealed he had a mild stroke. Because he delayed reporting his symptoms, it was too late for doctors to attempt to break up the clot, he said. "The thing that people don't understand is you have three hours once you think you are experiencing a stroke to do something about it," Bruschi said. "If you can get to the hospital right away, you can get a clot-busting drug that could save your life." He said people with symptoms such as numbness on one side, slurred speech, loss of balance, should go to the hospital. "Don't do what I did," he said. "Don't go back to sleep. Get to the hospital as quickly as possible." Bruschi said he feels great, but won't rush back. "It's not a sprained ankle," he said. "This is my medical health, and although I'm feeling great right now, I've also been told by my doctors some time will help."