Belichick Promises QB Answer on Wednesday

Tuesday, January 29th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW ORLEANS (AP) _ Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and Drew Bledsoe are the three main characters in the first _ and almost certainly the best _ mystery of Super Bowl week.

A quarterback controversy is brewing. Will it be Brady or Bledsoe at quarterback for the New England Patriots?

Only Belichick can say. He promises he'll share all with a curious football nation Wednesday after practice.

``I'm sure a lot of people want more information than I'm able to give you right now,'' Belichick said Monday at a brief news conference after he arrived in New Orleans.

Most of the rest of his 20 minutes behind the podium consisted of different versions of the same answer.

At one point, Belichick inferred that he might already know who the starter will be. ``I said I'd announce a decision Wednesday, but I didn't say I'd make it Wednesday,'' he said.

Then, he backed off that notion.

``Look fellas, I'm not trying to keep anything from anybody,'' he said. ``I'm really not. If I could tell you something, and say I'm 100 percent, I'd tell you that. You can ask the question 50 different ways. I'll announce it on Wednesday. That's the best I can do right now.''

A few things are known: Belichick said Brady could have returned to the AFC title game after the ankle injury that forced him to the bench in the second quarter. Also, the second-year quarterback disembarked from the team airplane Monday showing no signs of a limp or any injury.

Whatever Belichick's final decision, it will surely be second guessed. This is, after all, the Super Bowl, where no decision goes unscrutinized.

Especially a decision as monumental as this.

Simply put, most teams make it to the Super Bowl because they have a stable situation at quarterback. The Patriots thought they fit that mold. Then came the injury, and the return of Bledsoe, who signed a 10-year, $103 million contract last offseason, only to spend most of the season on the sideline.

Bledsoe led the Pats to their third trip to the Super Bowl after replacing Brady. As luck would have it, the previous two also were in New Orleans. The Patriots lost badly in both of those. But at least they knew who the starting quarterbacks would be (Tony Eason started in 1986, Bledsoe in 1997).

``It shouldn't matter who's out there,'' receiver Troy Brown said. ``We've still got to go out and win a game.''

Brown was simply speaking the party line, which is all anyone is likely to hear Tuesday when the whole gang convenes again at media day. It's hard to imagine either quarterback or the coach giving any straight answers about the starting situation.

Belichick certainly wasn't in the forthcoming mood during his first go-round with reporters.

Was Brady's injury serious enough to warrant an MRI?

``Not that I'm aware of,'' Belichick said.

How was the quarterback feeling Monday?

``We're not even 24 hours after the game, so it's too early to comment on that,'' he said.

Can you go into detail about the injury?

``Well, not really. He has a sprained ankle,'' Belichick replied.

It's hard to imagine a head coach would know so little about the health of his starting quarterback, but Belichick wouldn't budge.

At one point, after fielding his seventh straight question about quarterbacks, the coach shrugged and smiled. He knows people are interested, but he'll make the announcement on his own schedule.

``I don't think anyone cares right now who it is,'' Brown said. ``We're happy we're here. We're here to do a job. We don't have any other choice than to be confident in whoever he picks.''