PRINCETON, N.J. - Gov. Corzine said in an interview this afternoon that he would return to work on Monday, governing primarily from Drumthwacket, the governor's mansion here.

Corzine, who was critically injured an April 12 car wreck, said he made the decision with the approval of his doctors and staff, and only after he felt mentally and physically up to the task.

He said he has been walking up and down stairs and around the mansion's property, and meeting with his staff on issues like the budget and his plans to lease or sell state assets.

"I think it's time to move on," Corzine said in an interview in the Drumthwacket backyard.

For now, he said, he will avoid traveling because the shaking of a moving car aggravates the pain in his ribs.

Corzine was released last Monday from Cooper University Hospital in Camden, 18 days after the accident that left him with fractures of 11 ribs, his sternum, collarbone and left leg.

In the interview today, he said he is thankful the crash was not worse. "I am grateful to be breathing," he said.

As for not wearing a seatbelt in the front passenger seat of the SUV, "I was careless and thoughtless," he said, "I had a false sense of security."

Corzine said he often wore a seatbelt in bad weather and had worn one earlier that day - but, he said, "I'm a 50-50 guy."

That will change now, he said. The governor said he plans to speak out about the importance of wearing a seatbelt at all times.

He also said he was paying no attention to speed the night of the crash and had not told his state police driver, Trooper Robert Rasinski, to travel at 91 m.p.h. on the Garden State Parkway, the speed that was recorded on the vehicle's black box.

The governor was en route to Drumthwacket to host a meeting between radio talk show host Don Imus and the Rutgers University women's basketball team when the car smashed into a guardrail just before 6 p.m.

"We weren't pressured for time," Corzine said. The meeting had been pushed back to 8 p.m., he said.

Asked if Rasinski should be exonerated of blame, Corzine said, "I don't think he did anything wrong."

Corzine said he remembers being engrossed in paperwork at the time of the crash. He said the impact threw him from the front seat into the very back of the Chevrolet Suburban, and he recalls being "in unbelievable agony," mostly from pain in his leg and chest.

 He had high praise for another of his bodyguards, Sgt. Jim Ryan. After a small fire erupted in the SUV after the crash, Corzine said, Ryan jumped out of the "chase car" following Corzine's, and crawled into the back of the SUV with the governor at a time when troopers were concerned the fire would cause gasoline to explode.

Another trooper quickly extinguished the fire, but Corzine said he remains grateful that Ryan would risk his life.

Today was the first day the governor had granted interviews since the accident. His voice was confident and he appeared relaxed, smiling often, while sitting in a chair with his injured leg propped up, wearing a light blue button-down shirt, khakis and sneakers.

Senate President and former Gov. Richard J. Codey has been serving as acting governor during Corzine's recuperation.

Contact staff writer Elisa Ung at 609-989-9016 or eung@phillynews.com.