Key to Bledsoe's resurgence will be missing in Seattle


Wednesday, October 19th 2005, 9:13 pm
By: News On 6


SEATTLE (AP) _ In 1993, New England introduced golden-armed quarterback Drew Bledsoe to its region as the NFL's top overall draft choice. It was as if Boston was welcoming back Paul Revere.

Celebrations. Relentless hype. Promises Bledsoe was New England's savior.

Nine years later, Buffalo introduced Drew Bledsoe to Western New York as the Bills' worthy heir _ finally _ to Hall-of-Fame passer Jim Kelly. It was as if Buffalo had just announced snow there was canceled. Forever.

More celebrations. More relentless hype. Heck, even a trade announcement on live, regional television, interrupting daytime soap operas, for goodness sake. Then, a parade into Rich Stadium and an address to thousands of screaming Bills fans. In April.

Then, last February, 12 years after the first mania and one day after the Bills essentially told him he was washed up by releasing him after three playoff-free seasons, 33-year-old Drew Bledsoe walked deep into the heart of football-mad Texas.

You could have heard a career drop.

When he was reminded of that last week, days before Sunday's showdown of NFC division leaders Seattle and Bledsoe-rejuvenated Dallas at Qwest Field, he laughed.

``Yeah, it was very different,'' Bledsoe said of signing his three-year, $14 million Cowboys contract to play for the coach who drafted him with the Patriots, Bill Parcells. ``I just kind of came in under the radar and signed the deal and did a quick little press conference. And that was it.

``There was a little skepticism about whether I still had something to offer. I kind of came in with something to prove rather than 'savior of the franchise' pushed on me.

``It was more like, 'OK, well, let's see what this guy's got.'''

Through six games, this guy's got the NFC's best passer rating (100.4), just ahead of Seattle catalyst Matt Hasselbeck (96.5). He's got eight touchdowns, four interceptions and a 63.3 completion percentage. He's also got a 4-2 record with a team that was 2-4 at this time last season, en route to 6-10.

On Sunday, he's also got a Washington state homecoming. The former Washington State Cougars star is playing only the second game of his long career in Seattle.

But Bledsoe's also got a problem.

He will not have Pro Bowl left tackle Flozell Adams blocking Seahawks pass-rush end Grant Wistrom. Adams, a 6-foot-7, 335-pound mountain tore knee ligaments last Sunday in Dallas' overtime win over the New York Giants. Adams is out for the season.

Now, the Cowboys are forced to employ Torrin Tucker at the most important blocking position for a right-handed quarterback.

Tucker, a 2003 undrafted free agent, lost out to sixth-round draft choice Rob Petitti for the starting right tackle job in training camp. He hadn't seen the field again until last week, when Adams got hurt.

Bledsoe admitted this won't be the best situation to continue his resurgence.

``It's going to change things, scheme-wise and in my approach to the game,'' Bledsoe said. ``Obviously, when you (have) a Pro Bowl left tackle, when you have a guy of that caliber playing on your left side, you just kind of put him over there and forget about it. You just rely on him to handle whoever is rushing on him.''

The irascible Parcells downplayed Adams' loss _ and an ankle injury that is sidelining emerging receiver Patrick Crayton for the next month.

``Everybody in the league goes through that from time to time,'' Parcells said of injuries, ``I have seen it so bad that you can't compete. ...That is just the way it is. On Monday morning, they just want to know who won.''

Easy for Parcells to say. He's not the one whose current career rebirth has coincided with better pass protection.

In Buffalo, Bledsoe, 6-6, 238, often looked statuesque. Frenzied defenders raced through the porous Bills line to tackle him. Indeed, last September, the Oakland Raiders, who finished next-to-last in the NFL with 25 sacks, dumped Bledsoe seven times.

Thus, Tucker-for-Adams is a key for Bledsoe and the Cowboys.

``I haven't changed one bit,'' Bledsoe said, answering why this year has been different from his recent, sputtering past. ``What I've got is ... guys that are giving me time to throw the ball.''

Two weeks ago, with Adams, the Cowboys thwarted Philadelphia's constant blitzing. Bledsoe threw for 298 yards and three touchdowns _ with no sacks. Dallas beat the Eagles for just the second time in 11 games, 33-10.

Now, no Adams. Will the Seahawks blitz more, especially to Bledsoe's now-vulnerable back side?

``I think what you have to do is not do the same things every time; against a veteran quarterback that's even more important,'' Seattle coach Mike Holmgren said. ``If you do ... he'll find a way to get you, I think. So you have to do a little of everything, so he can't get a read on you.''