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NFL - One-on-One With Drew Bledsoe

By Patrick Moran
Thursday, August 15th, 2002
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If someone would have told Drew Bledsoe around a year or so ago that he would be quarterbacking the Buffalo Bills in 2002, he might have had that person committed. Why wouldn't he? Entering 2001, Bledsoe was the "man" in New England, the toast of the town. In his previous eight seasons as the Patriots quarterback, Bledsoe practically rewrote the team record book. He had thrown for over 29,000 (29,257 to be exact) yards and 164 touchdowns. He led the Patriots to the Super Bowl in 1996. He was a popular fixture in the Boston community. So what went wrong?

It began on September 23rd of last season against the New York Jets. He was drilled by linebacker Mo Lewis and suffered severe internal chest injuries. Tom Brady became the starter and the rest was history. Even once Bledsoe regained his health, he couldn't find his back onto the field as a starter. New England won the Super Bowl, without Bledsoe at quarterback.

Although New England won the Super Bowl, they might not have gotten there if it wasn't for Bledsoe. In the AFC championship game against Pittsburgh, Bledsoe had to come to the rescue despite not having played for the past 15 games. Brady injured his ankle with 1:40 left in the first half and New England driving. Bledsoe came off the bench and completed three straight passes, including an 11-yard TD to David Patten. Drew kept his team poised and they went on to defeat the Steelers to advance to the Super Bowl.

On the second day of the NFL draft this past April, Bledsoe's world came full circle as he was dealt to division-rival Buffalo. If you don't think he's serious about leading Buffalo back to the playoffs and becoming a part of this community, you're wrong. Bledsoe along with his wife Maura, just bought a house in Aurora for $800,000. The Bledsoe's have also put their multi-million dollar home in Medfield, Massachusetts on sale.

Bills fans have taken well to Bledsoe quickly. He was greeted by thousands of screaming fans upon his arrival to Buffalo and first press conference at Ralph Wilson Stadium. His number 11 jersey is already a top-seller.

I recently had a chance to sit down with Bledsoe to discuss among other things, his time in New England, his relationship with the media, and the future he holds in Buffalo.

Sports Central: What was your initial reaction when you found out you were traded to Buffalo?

Drew Bledsoe: Why Buffalo? Why couldn't it have been San Diego? Why couldn't I have played in warm weather for a change? But very quickly after it happened, I started thinking a little deeper, a more in-depth look about the situation. I realized that it's really a great fit, both organizationally and with the area.

SC: How hard was last season personally for you? After being injured and eventually losing your starting job to Tom Brady?

DB: Last season for me personally was a very trying year. There were just so many things that happened. From the September 11 tragedy, to the 0-2 start, to getting hurt and not being able to get back on the field. It was a pretty emotional time.

SC: You were saluted with dignity in New England for the way you handled your benching. You never voiced your frustrations openly with the media. You could have raised the issue with the media. Why didn't you?

DB: I thought about it. But I had good people around me who really helped me through it. I had my wife to go home to. I had my parents to talk to and a lot of good friends who supported me. It was a difficult time, but I think I worked through it the way I did because I had these people around me to support me.

SC: Did the frustration reach the point before the Super Bowl when Brady was named the starter? Especially after you came off the bench to lead your team past Pittsburgh in the AFC championship game?

DB: Sure, I was frustrated. But Tom Brady had a great run with the team and deserved the chance to win the Super Bowl. What else can I say? Sure, I wanted to be in there as the starter, but it wasn't meant to be.

SC: You've always been known has having a good relationship with the media. Is there any particular reason why?

DB: I do respect the media. I respect those in the media who diligently work their story rather then simply printing the latest rumor or talk show comments. I really respect the people in the media who attempt to find the truth in a situation because you can't understand from the outside. You can't understand from the outside what it's like to be a NFL quarterback and I wouldn't expect anyone to. If you haven't been there, you can't understand what it's like on the other side.

SC: Was there ever a time when you were truly pissed off at the media?

DB: There is one time in particular I remember. We lost a playoff game to Pittsburgh in 1997. Somebody, to this day I still don't remember who it was, reported that after the game I was in the locker room, laughing about it and talking about it light-heartedly. That was the one thing, the one time in my experiences in dealing with the media that really pissed me off. I don't always show my emotional side to the media, but trust me; nobody hurts after a loss more then I do.

SC: With this Buffalo team assembled in front of you, it can be argued that you have more weapons now then you've had in your career. How do you feel about that?

DB: It's the most excited about football I've been in a while. The organization is good, and we have good, really young, and talented players.

SC: How much did it mean to you on a personal level to receive the kind of welcome the fans of Buffalo gave you when you showed up for your first press conference?

DB: It was crazy. I got into the (practice) facility, I came out, and they got a few thousand people out there and they've got 97 Rock playing music. They've got a band out there playing my high school and college fight songs. It was just crazy and one of the better feelings I've had in my career.

SC: How has the process of adjusting to being the quarterback of the Buffalo Bills been for you?

DB: The process has happened pretty quickly for me, really in a very short amount of time where I started feeling like I belong.

SC: You'll be playing in Kevin Gilbride's offensive system. What are your thoughts on him and his system?

DB: I really do like his system. The reason why is there is a great deal of flexibility in the offense. He puts a lot on the quarterback and a lot on the receivers as far as adjusting routes and reading defenses. That should play more to my abilities.

SC: Your new primary target is Eric Moulds.

DB: I can't tell you how excited I am about getting the chance to work along with someone like Eric Moulds. He's one of the best receivers in the league. He's amazingly strong, and he's very fast. Since the first day I've been in Buffalo, Eric is the first one I'm looking to get on the same page with. I think Eric and myself are going to provide some very exciting moments for Bills fans this season.

SC: Since early in camp, you've hooked up a lot with tight end Jay Reimersma. Your favorite target in New England for many years was another tight end, Ben Coates. Is that coincidence?

DB: Jay has all the skills you need to be a great receiver. He's big and he's quick. He has a great set of hands. I expect to be able to go to him a lot this year and I know he expects the same confidence in him from me.

SC: From what you've seen in camp, do you feel comfortable with the offensive line in front protecting you?

DB: The unit is coming along nicely. They've shown already that many of them are flexible and can play a number of positions. I'm not stupid. I know these guys are the ones that are going to keep me out of the emergency room.

SC: What's your opinion on first-round draft pick Mike Williams?

DB: When I first saw him, I was like, "oh my God, is this guy huge." He's one of the biggest guys I've ever seen. In fact, he's so big, I was thinking to myself there's no way he can be quick enough to play in this league. But when I saw him perform in camp, I realized that he's not fat at all. He's very big and strong, but he's also very agile. He's going to be a great force on this team and he'll be one of the better tackles in this league in a very short amount of time.

SC: Would you have felt this comfortable had you been traded to another organization other then Buffalo?

DB: I can't say for sure but I don't think so. This organization, this situation, this team seems to be a great fit for me.

SC: When the New England Patriots received their Super Bowl rings at a party in late-June, you elected to have a friend pick up your ring. Why?

DB: I have great memories of being in that situation (being a member of New England). But I've moved on. To go back and do something as part of that team right now just didn't feel right. Now that I'm a Buffalo Bill. This is my team now. This is where I belong now. The ring I won with New England will always be a good thing to have. But I'll be more proud of the one we win here in Buffalo. That will mean more to me.

SC: Former quarterback Jim Kelly has gone out of his way to say how happy he is that your the starting quarterback for this team.

DB: Jim Kelly was one of my idols as a football player. Jim Kelly is still a huge presence here in Buffalo, and I've seen him quite a bit. We've played golf together a few times. I just hope we can get back to that level of dominance that this team had when Kelly was the quarterback, and hopefully we can take it one step further than the last step that they were fortunate enough to take.

SC: Do you see a lot of yourself in Jim Kelly?

DB: It's hard to compare anybody to a Jim Kelly. He was such a ferocious leader. And as good as his stats were, they paled into comparisons when it came to the intangibles he brought to the huddle. He was like a coach in the huddle, a demanding one at that. He demanded a lot from his team and they gave it to him. I see myself in that light too, although I'm not the verbal leader Jim Kelly was.

SC: Tell our readers a little about your Drew Bledsoe Foundation "Parenting With Dignity" program.

DB: My celebrity [status] has given me a chance to meet thousands of children all over the country. I came to realize that I was very lucky to grow in my home environment. My dream with this foundation, my goal, is to address some of the problems that some kids are facing. I want this program to be a source of information for parents, to give them some tools to create an encouraging and loving environment for their children.

SC: What do you think of the team's new threads?

DB: They're pretty cool. I like the way they look. I think they also symbolize that we're a new team with new goals and aspirations. The uniforms look like a winner, and hopefully we can play the same way on the field.

SC: Besides the obvious in winning a Super Bowl, what are some of your other goals as a member of the Buffalo Bills?

DB: I don't want this organization to ever get to the point where they say that the problem is at quarterback, let's change the quarterback. Hopefully, they'll never get to that. I'm very proud that this organization researched all their options and came to the conclusion that the best option was to trade for me.

SC: Finally, you've been around this league for many years now, and you've seen many teams. How talented is this Bills team you're a leader of right now?

DB: Right now, we've got that dangerous word, potential. We've got some playmakers on this team. We've got an offensive line that's looking good if they can stay healthy. But just cause we have potential doesn't mean anything because we haven't accomplished anything yet. I like the guys I'm throwing the ball to and I like the guys who are carrying the ball. But we haven't accomplished anything. Not yet.

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