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Snap judgments: Bledsoe angry with lack of opportunity
by Michael Felger and Rich Thompson

Wednesday, November 21, 2001

FOXBORO -- A visibly angry Drew Bledsoe said yesterday he ``was told'' that he'd have an opportunity to compete for the Patriots starting quarterback job once he was cleared by doctors. According to sources close to Bledsoe, that assurance came from coach Bill Belichick.

However, a team source said last night that no promises were given.

``He was told that he'd get snaps with the first team (at practice), more than a No. 2 guy would normally get, and that (the coaches) would go from there,'' said the source. ``That's what happened, and it was determined that a (quarterback) change wasn't warranted. Maybe Drew interpreted it as a bigger opportunity than what it really was, or (Belichick) said it in a way that wasn't clear. But no promises were made.''

Bledsoe, standing in front of his locker, issued terse responses regarding Belichick's decision to stick with Tom Brady as the starter for the remainder of the season. In an unprecedented move for him, Bledsoe twice snapped ``Next question'' to reporters' inquiries.

``I looked forward to the chance to compete for my job and I'll leave it at that,'' Bledsoe said. ``I feel as good as I have felt in probably three or four years at this point in the season.''

Bledsoe, who sustained internal injuries on Sept. 23 after a devastating hit from the Jets' Mo Lewis, was cleared by doctors to return to game action last Tuesday. At a Mass. General press conference that day, he confidently stated his desire to win his job back from Brady.

But at practice last week, Bledsoe saw only minimal snaps with the first team. Bledsoe's disappointment over his limited opportunities turned to anger on Monday when Belichick told him that Brady would be the starter unless something ``unforeseen'' happened.

``Drew thought it would be like the Terry (Glenn) thing (before the San Diego game Oct. 14), where Terry was allowed to go out to practice, show what he could do, and work his way into the lineup,'' said a source close to Bledsoe, referring to Glenn's quick ascension into the lineup after the end of his NFL drug suspension in October. ``I don't know if Drew just assumed that or he was told that.''

But, added the source: ``Drew doesn't get pissed off for any reason. At heart he's a pretty reasonable guy.''

Meanwhile, Belichick believes his decision to take snaps away from Brady and give them to Bledsoe last week may have contributed to the Pats' 24-17 loss to the Rams on Sunday night.

``I don't think we did a good job of getting our starting quarterback ready,'' said Belichick. ``I feel that for us to get our starting quarterback ready that we need to give that player the majority of the reps and the majority of the looks.

``That's a coaching problem not a players' problem. We have to get one player ready and that's the way it's always been. When Drew was the quarterback it was the same way with him and I don't think we can do it with two players.''

Bledsoe, whose snaps were reduced yesterday, said his health is no longer an issue.

``I haven't been hit in two months,'' he said. ``I've been able to lift, I work out hard and I feel very good.''

Bledsoe made it obvious he's unhappy with the latest turn of events but said that his long-term objectives haven't changed. The main message Bledsoe tried to convey was that he's not going anywhere.

``My long-term perspective is the same as it was since I signed my latest contract,'' said Bledsoe. ``I look forward to finishing my career here and I have great affection for this area.

``We have great fans and I love my teammates on this team and I feel like we have one of the best owners in sports. I really look forward to getting back on the field and go about it with my teammates and this organization.''

Bledsoe wants to avoid factions from developing within the clubhouse over the swirling quarterback controversy. Running back Antowain Smith saw that happen in Buffalo last year. Earlier in the season, Smith confirmed that the Bills organization was a house divided over the Doug Flutie-Rob Johnson schism and the fallout hurt the team.

Bledsoe said he would not tolerate a split locker room. He wants to foster an atmosphere in which both quarterbacks are treated equitably.

``Not if I have anything to say,'' said Bledsoe concerning divisions within the team. ``My approach as I've said is to do the same thing I've done since I was drafted here in 1993 and that's to do whatever I can to help this team, help my team, win.

``Part of that involves dealing with this situation in a manner that allows the players on this team to support Tom and support me at the same time.''

Belichick insisted his motives were team-oriented and that Brady, having started the last eight games, was better qualified to lead the Patriots against the Saints and into the final third of the season. At 5-5, the Patriots have a chance to make the playoffs and Belichick feels Brady, the fourth-rated (86.9) quarterback in the AFC, gives the Patriots the best shot to qualify.

``I felt that after giving the situation a lot of consideration we had to have a little more definition at the quarterback position,'' said Belichick. ``Tom will be the quarterback and I want to make this as clear as I can that this is not about Drew losing a job or being beat out.

``This is strictly about the team and getting the team ready and obviously the quarterback position is a very important part of the team. You can't get two quarterbacks ready, you can get one ready and that's what we have to do.''


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