Revisting Bledsoe's legacy


Revisting Bledsoe's legacy

By: Rich Levine

Its not every day that you have a reason to talk about Drew Bledsoes legacy, but today I come bearing two:

1. Bledsoes on the verge of election into the Patriots Hall of Fame.

2. Its either that or we talk about the lockout.

So lets stick with Bledsoe, at least for now. Then its back to brainstorming ways to spend our Sundays this fall. (So far all I have is: Crawl into a hole and cry myself unconscious.)

Anyway, last Friday, the Patriots HOF committee began the process of selecting nominees for the Class of 2011, and while nothings official yet, its a pretty safe bet that when alls said and done (after the committee names its finalists, and the fans vote for their favorite) that Drew Bledsoe will be the last one standing.

The reasons are obvious.

At the end of the day (for all he was, and certainly all he wasnt), there are very few players whove impacted the Patriots organization quite like Bledsoe.

Beginning in 1993, he (along with Bill Parcells, whos also up for a spot but may have burned too many bridges on his private jet out of town) rescued the team from the darkest stretch in franchise history. Before Bledsoe, the Pats were all about bad jokes, black outs, and Dick MacPherson. In the four years before Bledsoe, the Pats won a total of 14 games. There was no leadership. No direction. No hope. The only time anything exciting happened, it involved Irving Fryar and the police.

But Bledsoeagain, and Parcellscame in and changed that. After his rookie season, the buzz around the team helped inspire Robert Kraft to make the leap into ownership. By Bledsoes second season, the Pats had a winning record and were back in the playoffs. By his fourth season, they were in the Super Bowl. In the meantime, at least until Nomar came along in the late-90s, Bledsoe became the most popular athlete in town. He was the star of a franchise that had gone forever without one, especially on offense. He put up big numbers. He had the golden arm. He won games like that famous comeback against the Vikings. After so many years a pathetic Patriot football, Bledsoe made passes like that game-winner to Kevin Turner, and, in the process, he made the Pats cool again. He made people believe that this franchise had a chance.

The truth is that right now, theres an entire generation of Patriot fans who exist because of Drew Bledsoe. That alone makes him worthy of the Hall, and its on those meritshes also second all-time in passing yards, and third all-time in wins and touchdownsthat hell see his number retired, either this August or whenever the season starts.

And when that happens, as hes up on the podium with his family and former teammates and all the Krafts, well give credit where credits dueto a guy who changed football in New England, and who, for eight seasons, meant a lot to a lot of people around here.

Well stand, and well applaud

And after, every single person in that stadiumfrom Kraft to Belichick to Brady to the super fan with tattoos all over his face, to the weird guys with the musketswill take a second and collectively have the same exact thought:

Man, thank God he got hurt.

And thats unbelievably strange. But its OK.

Because while it may feel wrong to stand and cheer for a guy, knowing that you still consider the day he was nearly killed on the field to be one of the greatest days in Patriots history, theres also this.

The injury wasnt only the best thing that ever happened to the Pats, it was the also best thing that ever happened to Drew Bledsoes legacy.

The truth is that if that injury never happens, things werent going to end well.

Not that his Patriot career had a storybook ending anyway, but this would have been worse.

Bledsoe stays healthy that year and more than likely flushes another season down the toilet. He continues to play in the shadow of a 100M extension that he couldn't live up to. At the time, Belichick was already unhappy. He didnt like Bledsoes game and it wasnt getting any better. His touchdown total had gone down in each of the four seasons since the Super Bowl; his decision-making was getting worse. He was as good as he was going to get, and it wasnt good enough. If Bledsoe stays healthy, maybe theres still a controversy; after all, Belichick wanted Brady running the show, but it would have been a mess. It wouldnt have been any sweeter than what happened, only this time the season would have already been lost. Maybe Brady never catches that initial lightning in a bottle, maybe the Pats never catch that mystique.

So many different things could have happened from Drew Bledsoe escaping Mo Lewis, but relative to what actually did happen, all of them would be negative. And Bledsoe wouldve been the target. He could have dodged Lewis, but his brand would have continued to take a hit with every Pats loss, and who knows where it would've gone from there. Bledsoe finished his Patriots career with a record of 163-160. If he doesnt get hurt, theres a very good chance he goes below .500. And again, it wasn't getting any better.

And then what do we make of his career? What happens to that legacy? Are people rushing to vote him the first time hes eligible for the Patriots Hall of Fame?

Thankfully, the answers dont really matter, because reality worked out so much better. In reality, the injury happened, and the Patriots future was saved.

As was that legacy.

Believe it or not, this September 23 will mark 10 years since Bledsoe last started a game for the Pats; it will be 10 years since he took that hit from Lewis, triggered a storybook season and one of the most dominant decades in NFL history.

And in the end, that injury, and that decade, are the reason we're now able to appreciate all that Bledsoe accomplished over his eight years here, and not get bogged down by what he didnt.

Its why even though New England once dreamed of seeing Bledsoes jersey on display in Canton, Ohio, well still be more than happy to settle for celebrating it in Foxboro.

Rich Levine's column runs each Monday, Wednesday and Friday on Rich can be reached at Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

David Backes out at least 2 more games (and likely longer) after elbow procedure


David Backes out at least 2 more games (and likely longer) after elbow procedure

The Bruins look like they’ll be without gritty veteran forward David Backes for at least the next couple of games, and probably more like the next couple of weeks.

It was announced that the gritty Bruins forward underwent a procedure on Monday remove the olecranon bursa from his elbow, and that “his condition will be updated after the weekend.” The procedure is commonly performed when bursitis in the elbow becomes an untenable, and seems more like an injury that worsens over time rather than anything that happened in a particular game this season.

Backes’ effectiveness did seem to be impacted after he got into a fight with Nazem Kadri in the second game of the season in Toronto, but it’s unknown if there’s any connection between that sequence and the forward’s elbow issues. According to the AAOS (American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons) website, it may take “10-14 days” for the skin to heal following the procedure, and three-to-four weeks before a doctor would clear the average person to resume normal activity.

The 32-year-old Backes is off to a good start for the Bruins with two goals and four points in five games prior to missing Tuesday night’s loss to the Minnesota Wild, and his absence makes an already-thin Bruins forward group smaller, softer and much less dangerous. With Backes on the shelf for at least the next two games against the Rangers and Detroit Red Wings, the Bruins have recalled young center Austin Czarnik after his short stint with the Providence Bruins.

Julien: Defensive mistakes 'doing a lot of damage to our game'

Julien: Defensive mistakes 'doing a lot of damage to our game'

BOSTON – The fact that the Bruins goaltending wasn’t up to snuff was well-documented in Tuesday night’s 5-0 home loss to the Minnesota Wild.

But the Bruins are also experiencing some major defensive problems along with injuries to Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin, and that has been a major factor in things suddenly taking a turn for the Black and Gold. Perhaps it’s also a byproduct of playing higher quality NHL teams that can exploit some of those issues, and that’s exactly what the Canadiens and Wild have done in scoring eight mostly easy goals against the B’s in the last two games.

“We give up two quick goals in that [second] period that just deflated us at that point. But you know, our game right now has to be better without the puck and the kind of goals we’re giving up are killing us. They’re taking momentum out of our hockey club. We’ve had some decent starts we haven’t been rewarded for,” said Claude Julien. “We haven’t scored first now in six games, so you’re playing that kind of a game and the minute you give up a goal you’re playing from behind.

“You’ve got to find a way to score that first goal but at the same time I think we need to be much better without the puck and respecting that part of our game a little bit better. Mistakes, or lack of coverage and not being in the right place [in the D-zone] right now, are doing a lot of damage to our game. It’s hurtful at the end because you end up with this kind of a result.”

The first goal allowed by Subban was a lost battle in front of the net as Charlie Coyle took the puck from Danton Heinen in a 50/50 battle, and then the B’s rookie goaltender allowed a fluttering puck to get through his pads on his glove side. Then 12 seconds later a really big breakdown by the Bergeron line and John-Michael Liles/Colin Miller pair left Chris Stewart all alone in front with a point blank chance in the slot.

That was a defensive punch to the gut that knocked all of the wind out of the Black and Gold, and they were never recovered. It was also an inexcusable mistake in a Julien-coached system that is supposed to suffocate any attempts by attackers to get into the slot area for scoring chances.

“It’s really, you know, getting away from playing the way we know how to. We talked about not cheating on the offense, not giving up the slot, and you know giving them the outside as much as possible. When you don’t do that obviously it’s going to be hard on the goalies,” said Patrice Bergeron. “You know obviously it’s a team game, it’s about everyone and [the young goalies] are definitely not to blame tonight. We talked about being a strong, defensive team and being tight in our zone. We did that in the first, I thought, and the second was ugly.”

Give Subban credit for making a stop on Marco Scandella after giving up the two goals in 12 seconds, but a soft power play score allowed to Ryan Suter resulted in the rookie getting pulled from the game despite whatever was happening defensively in front of him. For good measure, an Adam McQuaid turnover in the B’s defensive zone quickly turned into a Jason Tucker goal through traffic to make it 4-0, and the Bruins were well on their way to their worst loss of the season.