FOXBORO, MA — Quarterback Drew Bledsoe returned to practice on Wednesday, and for the first time in seven weeks it wasn’t with the scout team.
Bledsoe was cleared on Tuesday to return to game action after missing the last seven weeks following being knocked out of game two by Jets linebacker Mo Lewis. He suffered internal bleeding as a result of the collision and has been replaced since then by 2nd-year quarterback Tom Brady who in his absence has brought them back from 0-2 to 5-4 with a very big game coming up against 6-1 St. Louis who heads to Foxboro on Sunday for a nationally televised battle.
A big game, a big challenge. Bledsoe said on Monday he intends to do all he can to be a part of it.
“I am going to do everything in my control to be on the field on Sunday,” said Bledsoe. “Ultimately that is not my decision, but given the opportunity, I can’t wait. Between now and then I am going to do everything within my power see that that happens.”
“I will say I have a great deal of confidence in my ability to play this game and I intend to make it very hard for [Tom] Brady to stay on the field, but hey if he is playing better than I am he will keep playing.”
But for Bledsoe to return to the playing field, he’s going to have to give head coach Bill Belichick a very good reason to pull current starter Tom Brady. Brady has gone 5-2 as a starter and for now, Belichick says he intends to stay with Brady this Sunday against the St. Louis Rams.
However, the fact that Brady has been successful up to this point doesn’t necessarily guarantee him the job either. Belichick has said that he intends to always play the best player, and he now has a three-time Pro Bowl quarterback who will be coming back to fight for the spot he has held for the past nine seasons. The NFL is about winning and past history is generally thrown out the window with a “what have you done for me lately” mentality. In order for him to return, he’ll have to show he deserves his spot back, and the simple fact that he’s been cleared to play doesn’t necessarily guarantee him that.
Meanwhile, Belichick was pleased to hear Wednesday that his franchise player has every intention of working as hard as he can to return to the line-up, saying that’s what every player should do.
“That’s what every player should do,” said Belichick. “That’s what we want every player to do. I’ll take all that we can get.”
“That’s what a competitor should do. I couldn’t ask any player on our team to do more than that, to come in here every day, every week, to prepare like he’s going to play and win.”
“That’s what it takes. I mean I don’t want anybody coming in here thinking that ‘I’m not going to do anything this week, or this isn’t really my time, I’ll be ready next week coach.’ I’m not interested in that.”
Despite how pleased he was to hear how much Bledsoe plans to work to get back under center, he also said that he hasn’t seen him practice with the offense in seven weeks, and that he’s going to have to see how it goes before he decides exactly when he’ll be put back at the helm.
“We’ll start to get a better look at Drew this week because again he’s not really in a rehab situation,” said Belichick. “We’ll just have to see how it goes.”
“Drew has not practiced with the offensive football team in seven weeks. He’s run some scout team plays on defense, he’s thrown some passes to receivers against nobody covering them, that’s what he’s been doing.”
“He’s been coming off an injury. He’s been rehabilitating, he has not taken one snap with the offensive football team in seven weeks. How’s it going to look when he starts doing that? I don’t know, I can’t tell you.”
But he saw #11 participate in drills on Wednesday, and prior to Wednesday, it was an easy issue to dismiss. He’s not going to be able to do it quite a simple anymore.
Which leaves Belichick with the burden now of having to make a difficult decision. He hadn’t seen Bledsoe take snaps in regular drills since back in September, and Wednesday was the first time he got to finally get a good look at him in working with the offense. It may be that regardless of how well he performs in practice Belichick may want to stick with the ‘hot hand’ and go with Brady against a very explosive Rams offense.
It’s an issue that will continue to get bigger as the rest of the week progresses. Belichick said on Wednesday that he’ll wait and see how things go with Bledsoe before moving him up to the #2 spot above Damon Huard.
Whether he likes it or not, that will probably be the easiest decision he’ll get to make on this quarterback situation.
On paper it’s just a matter of ‘will it be #11 or #12?’ They may only be separated by one number, but the difference will be debated by many until Belichick decides which one will be chosen.
Posted Under: 2001 Patriots Season