FOXBORO, Mass. (AP) – Chad Brown may have found a shortcut to learning the New England Patriots complex defense – pick the brain of the man he could replace.

While Tedy Bruschi’s playing status for the season remains uncertain and he isn’t practicing after he suffered a minor stroke last February, the inside linebacker participates in team meetings.

“The defensive coordinator starts every meeting with about 20 minutes of questions – not asking him questions, him asking us questions,” Brown said at the team’s minicamp. “So Tedy’s been able to whisper in my ear and help me answer some of those questions.”

Brown laughed, but he’s serious when discussing the complexity of the defensive system.

“I understood the terminology would be different but I thought some stuff would carry over,” said Brown, released after eight seasons in Seattle in a salary cap move. “There’s no carryover at all. It’s a whole new language.”

Coach Bill Belichick said Brown is learning the system well. With three Pro Bowl appearances and the most sacks by any active linebacker, 78, he has the physical ability to contribute as a starter even though he turns 35 on July 12 and is coming off an injury plagued stretch in which he missed 19 games the last three seasons.

He studies with 26-year-old Monte Beisel, another free agent linebacker who signed after spending four seasons with Kansas City but starting only nine of his 55 pro games, all last year.

“I think a couple of times we both asked for the secret learning pill for the Patriots’ defense,” Beisel said. “When you’ve got a veteran corps like the guys that they have here I think our best learning tools are the (line)backers that have been here in the past years.”

The coaches are good teachers, too, even though the Patriots have a new defensive coordinator, Eric Mangini, who took over when Romeo Crennel became head coach at Cleveland.

One difference Brown noticed from his 12 previous NFL seasons – the first four with Pittsburgh – is the Patriots coaches’ “attempt to have a definite answer for everything the (opposing) offense does. Sometimes in the past we just said, “well, hopefully they won’t run that (play)’ or “that’s just going to be a tough play for us.’ They don’t say that here. There’s an answer for everything.”

That approach has led to three Super Bowl championships in four years. While Brown was with the Seahawks, they played in just three playoff games and lost them all. In Pittsburgh, he reached the playoffs in each of his seasons and made it to a Super Bowl where the Steelers lost to Dallas.

He doesn’t see any signs of championship ego or euphoria on the Patriots practice field.

“They don’t talk about being Super Bowl champions,” Brown said. “There’s no discussion of the past. It’s what we do now, what we do today, that makes this that good.”

Belichick said the Patriots might have signed Brown and Beisel even if Bruschi hadn’t suffered a stroke. But the availability of an accomplished veteran like Brown was a big boost.

“It’s huge,” safety Rodney Harrison said. “You could never replace Tedy Bruschi, but just to be able to go out and get a guy like Chad as opposed to going in and putting a rookie in his place, that helps out tremendously.

“He has a motor that doesn’t quit,” Harrison said. “He throws his body around. He sacrifices everything he has.”

Brown is in a 3-4 defense, the style he played with Pittsburgh, and that should give him a chance to display his versatility while dealing with the possible role of replacing Bruschi, who made plenty of big plays.

“I don’t think anybody puts more pressure on me than me,” Brown said. “Coming to a new situation, trying to learn a very complex defense, that’s enough pressure in itself.”

AP-ES-06-10-05 1901EDT


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