In an exclusive interview with CSNNE Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran, longtime Patriots quarterback and team Hall-of-Famer Drew Bledsoe discussed how his career changed the Patriots’ franchise and how he dealt with being replaced by Tom Brady.
Bledsoe, the top overall pick in 1993 who was famously injured in Week 2 of the 2001 season after signing a 10-year extension, said watching Brady replace him and lead the franchise to its first Super Bowl championship gave him mixed feelings.
“It’s definitely bittersweet. I make no qualms about it,” he said. “The sweet part was really obvious: I was really happy for my teammates. That’s what you work so hard for, is to try to win a championship, but to get to that point after being the guy for eight-plus years and I don’t get to go on the field, it’s heartbreaking. It’s really, really hard to watch your team to succeed and not be out on the field with them, so it was tough.”
Bledsoe said that leading the team to victory in the AFC championship after an injury to Brady brightened the experience for him, noting that it was never his intention to let any awkwardness with the situation hinder the team.
“It takes an entire team to have good culture and one guy can tear it down if he chooses to,” he said. “I wasn’t going to be that guy, so I’m proud of that contribution. I am glad I got to play in the game. I didn’t wish any ill will toward Tommy certainly, but I did feel like I was actually going to play in that game.”
“Really?” Curran responded.
“For whatever reason,” Bledsoe replied, “I felt like I was going to play in that game.”
Bledsoe said leaving the Patriots after the season via a trade to the Bills was a reminder that “there’s no sentimentality” when it comes to teams making what they feel are the right moves.
Asked whether he could see such a scenario eventually playing out with Brady, Bledsoe noted that it would be rare for someone’s career to end as perfectly as John Elway’s did, but that Brady would deserve to stay in New England until he’s done.
“Tommy’s done such a great job keeping himself healthy and playing at such a high level, it’s hard to imagine that would happen,” Bledsoe said. “But at some point it comes to an end for everybody.”
Credited largely with taking the team from a perennial loser to one planting the seeds of a dynasty, Bledsoe said he takes pride in what his teams were able to accomplish. Most specifically, he hopes the organization can eventually hold a celebration for the 1996 AFC Championship-winning team that eventually fell in Super Bowl XXXI to the Packers.
“I’d love to see our ’96 team come back and be recognized, because that was the team that really took it from bad to pretty good, and then from pretty good it went to where it is now, which is greatness,” he said. “But it was neat to be a part of those teams and be a part of those teams that changed the culture around here.”