Drew Bledsoe was always Mr. Cool out there on the field during his very good, if not great, NFL career. His nonchalant demeanor is one of the reasons, I’d argue, that the former #1 overall draft pick in 1993 threw for over 44,000 yards during his 14 year playing career. That same laid-back attitude also precluded Bledsoe from really ever opening up about losing his starting job to a young 6th round draft pick no-namer by the name of Tom Brady. Well, that’s all changed. Finally. Bledsoe joined KTAR in Phoenix on Thursday to talk about the experience of being at the top of his profession to suddenly being without a starting gig as he entered his early 30s.
On his lengthy career, which featured 193 career starts:
“Yeah, it seems like a lot in retrospect. Now I’m just retired up here in Montana hanging out and I don’t know how you feel about it looking at the game now but when I turn on a football game now and I look out there at what those guys are doing I’m like, man, what were you thinking man. That looks like it hurts.”
“There were a couple of hits that I will always remember. One was against the BIlls my rookie year the second time we played them. And I had hurt my knee and I came back halfway through the second game with the BIlls and was kind of hobbling around. It’s fairly well documented that while I could do some things, running wasn’t really one of them. And so I dropped back, couldn’t find anybody open. So I started to take off at lightning speed up the middle and Phil Hanson hit me from the side.
He got me from the side and I was just about down to the friendly embrace of the turf at Foxboro when all of a sudden I saw this flash of blue and red and it was Marcus Patton coming out of nowhere and he hit me right in the face and he hit me hard enough that it split my helmet and my face mask was wide open. I think I took a little nap for a second there out on the field, but got back up and got back in the huddle – thankfully it was the right huddle, not the wrong huddle. But that one always stuck with me because I actually have a picture that my dad has from the next snap where I was at the line of scrimmage and my face mask was bent about an inch and a half, two inches wider than it was the play before. So that was a good one, and obviously the Mo Lewis hit that ended up giving that other guy – that Brady guy – a chance to see the field in New England. That one, from what I recall, was a pretty good hit.”
On what it was like being relegated to spectator status by Tom Brady after having been ‘the guy’ all throughout college and the first eight or nine years in the NFL:
“That was a pretty interesting time in my life as I’m sure you can imagine. You know, when you come in to the league and you’re a young guy and you’re kind of installed as the figure head of an organization and you carry that mantle for 9 years – or 8 years and change – and have some success and put your blood, sweat and tears in to it. And then when you finally get hurt and are bleeding out there on the field and you have to go to the hospital for four or five days, and when you come back, all of that is forgotten and you’re cast by the wayside, it’s a bit of an eye opener. You know, I think that when you’re young and you come in and have some success, you think you’re bullet proof to an extent. But you find out fairly quickly that football is a replacement business and that no matter what it is that you’ve done, you’re as good as your last play. And then to have all of that going on where I couldn’t get my job back and this other kid was in there playing, begrudgingly now I can say he was playing awfully well and has gone on to play very well.
But you know, there was some soul searching going on just to figure out how I was going to handle that whole thing. But you know, I swallowed my pride and showed up for work and got ready to play every week. And then in the AFC Championship Game, to have the kid go down, to get a chance to go back on the field – it was pretty damn exciting. And I got to tell you, after going that long not doing what you love, having to sit there and watch somebody else do it, and then to get a taste of it again was pretty exciting. And you know, we went out there and were able to beat the Steelers and go to the Super Bowl. The end of the game, as we were out there taking a knee to end the game, man it all just kind of hit me in a rush. It was a pretty emotional deal that last few plays of that game when I was just taking a snap and kneeling down. It was a pretty emotional deal.
The thing that was kind of cool though was my dad, I had no idea he was going to show up for that game and didn’t know it until the night before when he called me and said he and a buddy were in town…It just so happened that my dad was there for that game. So when I would take a snap and kneel down at the end of a game, I would always keep those footballs when I got to kneel down at the end of a game. So I kept that football and as we were up on stage receiving the trophy, my dad had snuck his way down on to the field, so I fired that football to him and he’s got that one in his trophy case. That was pretty cool.”