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Originally published Friday, January 5, 2007 at 12:00 AM

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Bledsoe: "I'm doing fine"

Say nothing. That would be the easiest path for Drew Bledsoe, whose name is written so large in our state's football history yet enters...

Seattle Times staff reporter

IRVING, Texas — Say nothing. That would be the easiest path for Drew Bledsoe, whose name is written so large in our state's football history yet enters Dallas' game at Seattle as a footnote.

How can he explain his personal disappointment without detracting from the team's collective achievement? How does a man who has thrown for more yards than all but six other quarterbacks talk about playing the supportive strings of the second fiddle for the second time in six years?

Better to say nothing. No distractions. No messy discussion. This is the route Bledsoe followed for much of the past two months since being replaced by Tony Romo, and the response he chose Tuesday when asked for an interview.

He changed his mind the next day, inviting a reporter from his home state to follow him past the black curtain strung at the back of the Cowboys' locker room, and speaking to the people back home.

"I know that there probably are people that wonder how I'm doing," said Bledsoe, who went to Walla Walla High and Washington State. "And I'm doing fine. Disappointed about my personal situation, but trying to enjoy the process as much as I can still."

He came to Dallas two years ago to play for the coach who drafted him only to be pulled six games into this season. He was replaced by a guy who hadn't attempted a regular-season pass and then threw the Cowboys into the playoffs.

Bledsoe hasn't thrown a pass since the one that was intercepted in a game against the Giants. It was Bledsoe's eighth interception in six games, and he was replaced at halftime on that Monday night.

Demotions don't get more public or much more painful, and he buried those emotions for the good of the team.

"It was just really surreal initially," Bledsoe said. "It's still hard. Still hard, but you always have a choice in life how you're going to react to things."

His reaction? A little perspective and a lot of character. Quitting wasn't an option. He signed up for a team, not a role. He throws footballs, but doesn't toss in towels.

"I signed up to play ball here," Bledsoe said. "That's what I'm doing."

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That doesn't mean it's easy. Not after Romo won four of his first five starts. All of a sudden it started to feel like 2001, when Bledsoe played in New England and suffered a chest injury the second game. A sixth-round pick named Tom Brady replaced him and kept the job all the way to a Super Bowl victory.

"When Tony came in, the team started rolling a little bit," Bledsoe said. "Yeah, it did feel like a similar situation to what happened in New England."

Quarterbacks must be prepared for inordinate praise after victories and disproportionate blame for defeats, but they're never quite ready to be absent from the equation. Bledsoe has passed for 44,611 yards in his career, seventh-most in NFL history, but his last two trips to the playoffs occurred as a backup after his team got hot once he left the lineup.

And so Bledsoe receded to the background.

"I'm trying to do everything I can from a football standpoint to be ready to play," Bledsoe said. "Outside of that, just trying to have a positive attitude as much as I can."

Tight end Jason Witten was one of Bledsoe's favorite targets, and someone who appreciates his presence even though he's no longer the one throwing him passes.

"I probably have more respect for him now, and just the way he's handled the whole situation," Witten said. "He's done nothing but say good things to Tony and been supportive for him. He's still captain on this team."

Bledsoe was elected to that position by his teammates in training camp, and he takes the field for the coin toss every game. He will be the backup Saturday against the Seahawks, and Romo was asked this week if Bledsoe helped prepare him for his first playoff start. Romo paused before beginning to answer.

"Ummm," he said.

Another pause.

"We haven't talked too much about it," Romo said. "He's getting himself ready. And I've got to get myself ready, basically."

Romo was chosen for the Pro Bowl, while Bledsoe made sure he's prepared should another opportunity arise.

But a few months of disappointment don't outweigh 14 years as a starter.

"Even though it's not going well, it's still the job I dreamed of having from the time I was a little kid," Bledsoe said. "So even though it's not going well, I still love it. I still love the game. I'm not jaded about the game or any of that.

"I love the game of football and enjoy being around the guys and all of that, but it has been hard."

Bledsoe wears flip-flops this time of year, a wintertime indulgence for the Northwest guy down here in Texas. He's lived in Bend, Ore., the past two years and has plans to operate a vineyard. His football future is not nearly as certain.

"Of course I've thought about it," Bledsoe said.

What are those thoughts?

"I'm not going to answer that one," Bledsoe said.

The answer is polite, and his voice has the baritone notes that are the signature of a quarterback who has spent a career shouting out plays.

"I'm proud of a lot of the things that I've accomplished," he said. "But it's not time for me yet to look back and say, 'OK, well, this is what my career was.' It's not that time yet."

Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or doneil@seattletimes.com

Drew Bledsoe's career statistics
Year Team G GS Att Cmp Pct Yds YPA Lg TD Int Rate
1993 Patriots 13 12 429 214 49.9 2494 5.81 54 15 15 65.0
1994 Patriots 16 16 691 400 57.9 4555 6.59 62 25 27 73.6
1995 Patriots 15 15 636 323 50.8 3507 5.51 47 13 16 63.7
1996 Patriots 16 16 623 373 59.9 4086 6.56 84 27 15 83.7
1997 Patriots 16 16 522 314 60.2 3706 7.10 76 28 15 87.7
1998 Patriots 14 14 481 263 54.7 3633 7.55 86 20 14 80.9
1999 Patriots 16 16 539 305 56.6 3985 7.39 68 19 21 75.6
2000 Patriots 16 16 531 312 58.8 3291 6.20 59 17 13 77.3
2001 Patriots 2 2 66 40 60.6 400 6.06 58 2 2 75.3
2002 Bills 16 16 610 375 61.5 4359 7.15 73 24 15 86.0
2003 Bills 16 16 471 274 58.2 2860 6.07 54 11 12 73.0
2004 Bills 16 16 450 256 56.9 2932 6.52 69 20 16 76.6
2005 Cowboys 16 16 499 300 60.1 3639 7.29 71 23 17 83.7
2006 Cowboys 6 6 169 90 53.3 1164 6.89 51 7 8 69.2
Total 194 193 6717 3839 57.2 44611 6.64 86 251 206 77.1
Source: nfl.com

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