Drew Bledsoe ready to return to Foxboro for a chance to help his old team
|01.20.12 at 10:42 pm ET|
FOXBORO — All things being equal, it’s good to be Drew Bledsoe.
When he was reached by phone on Friday, the former Patriots quarterback was out skiing, hanging out on a chair lift in between runs. He’ll climb down off the hill sometime this weekend and return to Foxboro, as he will join former teammates Troy Brown, Tedy Bruschi and Ty Law as honorary captains for the AFC championship game Sunday against the Ravens on Sunday.
‘One of my very best buddies from grade school is turning 40 [years old] tomorrow,’ Bledsoe said. ‘I had to call and apologize, but I told him I would wave to him during the coin toss. Hopefully, he’ll forgive me.’
Bledsoe is enjoying something of a renaissance with Patriots’ fans. The last guy to be a regular starting quarterback in New England before Tom Brady, he was inducted into the Patriots’ Hall of Fame last year, and was cheered loudly at the ceremony. And when he was honored at halftime of the home opener against the Chargers, he received a sustained ovation from the Gillette Stadium crowd. It’s clear that any enmity that existed between Bledsoe and the franchise or the fans and the former quarterback has disappeared.
‘It’s been a real honor this year to, first of all go through the Hall of Fame thing, and then to get the call the other day from Mr. Kraft to have me come back and be an honorary captain,’ Bledsoe said. ‘It’s been a real honor and a lot of fun.’
Bledsoe certainly holds no ill will toward Patriots coach Bill Belichick, the man who handed his starting job to Brady. On Friday, he had nothing but kind words for Belichick, saying that if he wasn’t one of the top NFL coaches in history, ‘he certainly has to be in that conversation.’
‘I don’t know who you put up there with him in terms of his record with the Patriots, and what he did as a defensive coordinator with the Giants prior to that,’ Bledsoe said. ‘Then coming back and being a defensive coordinator with the Patriots in ‘96. Obviously the run he’s had as the head coach of the Patriots has been unmatched. If he’s not the greatest, I like to meet whoever else is in that conversation.’
Bledsoe played in two AFC championship games over the course of his career in New England. His first came in 1996 as part of a team that made an unlikely Super Bowl run. The quarterback still has fond memories of that game, an icy cold afternoon where the Patriots beat the Jaguars to go to Super Bowl XXXI.
‘It was a really special time for everyone involved and I know it was for our fans as well,’ Bledsoe said of that postseason run for New England, which hosted two home playoff games that year for the first time in franchise history. ‘The Patriots had been through a lot of years that hadn’t been much fun and then to have not just one, but two home games in that run was really neat.’
Being around the game at this time of year will almost certainly be bittersweet for Bledsoe. Like Brown said earlier in the week, Bledsoe said Friday he really misses being a player when the postseason rolls around. But he figures he’ll get a little taste of how things used to be right before they kick the ball off.
‘I certainly don’t miss training camp and preseason football and all of those things that you have to do to get to this time of year,’ he said. ‘When you have the privilege of playing playoff football, it’s a really exciting time.
‘I’ve found that my body had a very physical reaction to the National Anthem. That was always ‘go’ time. I always found myself standing there with my hair standing up and my body told me that it was time to go again. So I know it’s going to be like that this week, and it’s going to be very fun to be part of it.’