FOXBORO, Mass. — Wednesday’s New England Patriots media availability featured an unexpected guest: former Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe.
Bledsoe was in town to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the 2001 Patriots team that won Super Bowl XXXVI. He’s one of more than 40 members of that team who will be honored in a ceremony this weekend at Gillette Stadium.
And as is the case in seemingly every interview he gives to a New England-based media outlet, Bledsoe’s 10-minute-long news conference featured plenty of questions about his successor, Tom Brady.
“The fact that Tommy’s still playing at the level that he’s at is pretty impressive,” Bledsoe said. “I know he’ll wear everybody out talking about his diet and his exercise regimen, but it’s working. And that combined with the fact that you can’t hit the quarterback anymore these days has allowed him to play a lot longer.
“I was watching the deal with Cam Newton where he wants to go meet with the commissioner. He’s got a list of hits. OK, I have a list of about 150 hits I’d like to discuss with the commissioner from back when I was playing. Those guys would try to rip our heads off. But I think Tommy can play for a long time. He takes great care of himself. He’s been such a great leader for this organization, and I think he can kind of go for a while now.”
Brady, now 39, is the only member of that ’01 squad still playing in the NFL. He credits his prolonged success to the aforementioned diet and exercise regimen, which he’s crafted over the years with help from his personal fitness guru, Alex Guerrero.
“When Tommy was young,” Bledsoe said, “he was with the rest of us. I could even get him to have a beer or two back in the old days. We had some good times. But I think that’s something that he’s learned and developed over time as he’s gotten older. I do remember as I got a little bit older in my career, it took a lot more work to feel the same. I think that Tom saw that coming, and that’s where that change has come from.”
By now, every football fan knows Brady’s story — the sixth-round pick who replaced a franchise icon and went on become perhaps the greatest quarterback of all time. When asked whether he saw this success coming, Bledsoe answered honestly: Not only did he not view Brady as a superstar in waiting, he wasn’t even convinced he’d be anything more than a career backup.
“I don’t think anybody really saw the run that he’s been on coming,” Bledsoe said. “It’s a confluence of events. Obviously, playing for a great organization that’s helped him, that goes along with all the things that he’s brought. I figured he’d be around the league for a long time, just because he was a hard-working guy that had a great attitude. I figured he’d be around for a long time, but I don’t know I ever thought he’d be a starter, to be honest with you. He was just this skinny kid out of Michigan. But obviously, he felt differently.”
And the Patriots are very thankful for that.
Thumbnail photo via Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY Sports Images