The New England Patriots activated linebacker Tedy Bruschi from the physically unable-to-perform-list on Saturday afternoon, making him eligible to play in tonight's game against the Buffalo Bills.
Coach Bill Belichick has said once Bruschi was on the active roster, he would be treated like any other player. Whether Bruschi starts is expected to be determined by the Bills' offensive lineup for the first series.
Bruschi has not played since February, when a minor stroke three days after the Pro Bowl put his career in jeopardy. The two-time defending Super Bowl champions put him on the reserve-PUP list, which left open the possibility of his return after the sixth week of the season.
He had to be activated by 3 p.m. Saturday to be eligible to play in the Patriots' (3-3) game against Buffalo (3-4).
Bruschi, 32, said this summer that he planned to sit out the entire year. But he continued to attend meetings, and his recovery went well enough for him to come back early. He was cleared by doctors and back at practice Oct. 19.
"It's out of my control now," Bruschi said before practice Wednesday. "I'm back. I'm a player. I'm a member of the team. So I've trusted my coaches ever since I was in high school."
Belichick said this week that Bruschi hadn't suffered any setbacks in practice, but he was behind his teammates because he missed so much time.
"His instincts are still there, and that's what separates him from other linebackers," linebacker Chad Brown said. "He's just got a great feel for what everyone on the defense is doing, how the offense is trying to attack him. And couple that with his great instincts, and that's why he makes plays."
New England had until Nov. 9 - 21 days from Bruschi's first practice - to activate him or place him on injured reserve and end his season. He has said he had no doubt he would play in a game this season.
"I just look at it as a process," Bruschi said this week. "Emotions are emotions, and I felt them all, but really, it's just about what I'm going to do today, how well did I do yesterday ... and just focus on playing football."