July 28, 2007
Don Banks filed a report from Patriots training camp, including this bit about the Asante Samuel holdout:
We’re probably in the face-saving stage of the stand-off, and you can tell that by the noticeably softer tone coming from Samuel’s agents in recent days. Samuel needlessly took a hard-line stance early on in negotiations, threatening to hold out for the season’s first 10 weeks unless he received a new long-term deal. That’s not going to happen, because Samuel isn’t going to walk away from any of the regular-season game checks that come with his $7.79 million franchise tender.
Now it’s probably just a matter of Samuel staying away from camp long enough so that it doesn’t look like he quickly caved in to the Patriots after talking so tough all offseason. Just after New England plays its second preseason game is a reasonable date to expect him.
I was never clear on how this “sit out the first ten games” threat would work out in practice anyway. Would Samuel really expect the team to welcome him back after skipping more than two months of the season in a contract dispute? Wouldn’t the Patriots Keyshawn him at that point?
It sounds like we won’t find out how this would’ve gone because it won’t be happening. That’s comforting to hear in light of the news that Chad Scott, who would’ve been Samuel’s likely replacement at cornerback, was carted off the practice field with a knee injury on Friday.
April 12, 2007
The news that Drew Bledsoe is retiring from the NFL has put me into nostalgia mode. I was a 12-year-old Patriots fan back when Drew was drafted #1 overall in 1993, and I saw him bring the Patriots back to respectability in the years that followed, culminating in the Super Bowl appearance in early 1997 against Green Bay (I was a sophomore in high school by then). Sure, Drew was a statue standing in the pocket, he was easy to ridicule, and he was the source of plenty of aggravation to me over the years, but I will always remember that he gave his all and was a class act. Despite his limitations, Drew had a gun of an arm and was a big part of the Pats’ success in the 1990s, obviously.
What I will remember most about Drew is how gracefully he handled the Patriots’ 2001 championship season, a tough year for him that began with a serious injury in the Jets game in September (a Mo Lewis hit nearly killed Drew in that first game after 9/11) and that saw him lose his starting job to some unknown named Tom Brady. Drew could’ve caused a big scene about it and torn the team apart. He was a good soldier though, even responding to media inquiries with “next question” responses on the very day that Belichick announced that Brady was keeping the starting job over the now-healthy Bledsoe, who was visibly seething. That must have been a devastating time for Drew personally. Here he was, the franchise quarterback with the $100-million dollar contract, and his life had changed dramatically and suddenly. Still, he didn’t poison the locker room as the team came together for the playoff run.
The script couldn’t have been written any better for the AFC Championship Game that year in Pittsburgh. With Tom Brady knocked out of the contest with an ankle injury, Drew Bledsoe sprinted off the bench to throw a rousing TD to David Patten and give the Pats a 14-3 lead in the second quarter. It was a beautiful scene with Bledsoe, who had dutifully accepted his role, able to contribute one last time. The next week, Drew told Brady to “just sling it” before the game-winning drive in the Super Bowl against the Rams. Brady did that, leading the team to its first-ever NFL championship and one of the biggest upsets in the history of the big game.
Bledsoe was happy and reflective after the Super Bowl. He must have known he was moving on, and on draft day in April 2002, the team traded him to Buffalo for a second-round pick. It was sad to see Bledsoe the last few years bouncing around the league, getting replaced in the starting role by two other young hot shots. He always remained classy, even with the dented pride of a one-time franchise QB reduced to a backup role.
Cheers to Drew Bledsoe for giving as much as I could expect from a pro athlete.