Linebacker has been a position of strength for the New England Patriots for most of their 20-year dynasty, and one of the big reasons they've been able to sustain such a high level of success
Tedy Bruschi was a key linebacker for New England from 1996 to 2008. A three-time Super Bowl champion, Bruschi was inducted to the Patriots Hall of Fame in 2013. There's no doubt he's one of the best LBs in Patriots history.
But on Wednesday, a humble Bruschi took on the task of naming his top five Patriots linebackers of the Tom Brady Era, and he didn't include himself.
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Here's who he did name, per WEEI's "Ordway, Merloni & Fauria":
Five, I heard you guys talking about [Rob] Ninkovich and I think that was a good call, that Rob and the timely plays he made, that sort of edge presence was strong. I go with Ninkovich at five.
I go [Roman] Phifer at four. Phife is someone that people forget about. Now, Phife never came off the field, through all those three championship runs — the early ones — Phife was like that guy now that splits out and covers the guy on the slots, and he’d beat up the tight end, or he’d have to cover a back. Phife did so much for us on the punt team with me and [Mike Vrabel], that type of guy. So Phifer was definitely one of the top ones for me.
For three, I have to put Hightower at three. Dont’a just made so many big plays in so many big games. So he’d be three for me.
Two, I’d go with Vrabel. all the reasons you guys have talked about already, but Vrabel, there was also a time during that stretch where he had to play inside linebacker. Inside linebacker, outside linebacker, defensive end, those type of guys. So Vrabel is two.
And I put [Willie] McGinest at one. In terms of a d-end, and also getting up and playing outside linebacker, setting the tone in the locker room, I mean, he was there even for the ’96 Super Bowl for me when I was a rookie there, so one would be Willie for me.
That's definitely a tough top five to argue with. Of course, Bruschi probably should be in there.
Jerod Mayo, Junior Seau, and Ted Johnson all are honorable mentions. And if we're talking non-Brady Era, Andre Tippett is likely in the top spot.
The Patriots lost a pair of key linebackers in free agency this offseason as Kyle Van Noy signed a four-year deal with the Miami Dolphins and Jamie Collins left for the Detroit Lions on a three-year contract.