Revisting Bledsoe's legacy

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Revisting Bledsoe's legacy

By: Rich Levine
CSNNE.com

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 CSNNE.com. Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrlevine33

OFFSEASON

Report: Durant decision ’90 percent made’ to return to Thunder

Report: Durant decision ’90 percent made’ to return to Thunder

Kevin Durant’s decision to return to the Oklahoma City Thunder is “90 percent made” and “it would take an amazing sales pitch to change it,” a friend of the NBA’s top free agent told ESPN.

Marc Spears of ESPN’s The Undefeated reports that “barring an incredible sales job, several friends and business colleagues close to the 2014 NBA MVP expect him to return to Oklahoma City for at least another year.”

“His decision is 90 percent made. It would take an amazing sales pitch to change it,” one of Durant’s longtime friends told Spears and another said, “It’s going to take some sweet-talking to get him to pass up all the money he can get by staying in OKC.”

So, that “incredible sales pitch” will come Saturday from the Danny Ainge and the Celtics, who are scheduled to meet with Durant in the Hamptons on Long Island then. 

The Celtics are one of six teams that Durant will meet with. He talked to the Thunder Thursday.  Also making pitches this weekend will be the Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs, the Los Angeles Clippers and the Miami Heat.  

Staying in OKC would be more lucrative for Durant.

Spears reports that Durant could get $30.6 million a year in an immediate multiyear deal with the Thunder as opposed to $28.4 million from the other teams and, if he opts for a shorter deal now and a longer one later, he could make as much as $40.7 million a year in Oklahoma City versus $32.6 million a year elsewhere. 
 

Bruins, Krug agree to four-year, $21 million deal

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Bruins, Krug agree to four-year, $21 million deal

With the salary room created by buying out the final two years of veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg contract, the Bruins signed restricted free agent Torey Krug to a four-year, $21 million contract ($5.25 million cap hit) through the 2019-20 season.

The negotiations between Krug and the Bruins had been fairly quiet with GM Don Sweeney consistently stating that something would get it done and it seemed the writing was on the wall when Sami Vatanen signed a four year, $19.9 million extension with the Anaheim Ducks. The two are comparable players in size, offensive production, NHL experience and both also served in top-four roles last season while projecting to stay at that level of performance over the next four years.

The Bruins couldn’t afford to let Krug, 25, hit the open market, where another team could potentially poach Boston’s only true puck-moving D-man with an offer sheet. After signing a one-year bridge deal, Krug played in a career-high 81 games, with four goals and 44 points. His 40 assists were ninth among D-men in the NHL last season and it’s clear that Krug plays a vital role as a puck mover and power-play specialist.

Krug also stepped up in minutes last season, finishing only behind Zdeno Chara with a career-high 21:36 average of ice time and essentially serving as the B’s de facto No. 2 defenseman. The diminutive (5-foot-9) D-man did pay the price for playing such heavy minutes by undergoing shoulder surgery following the season, but Krug was expected to make a full recovery and be ready to jump into the lineup at some point during the month of October.

The signing of Krug is a big piece for Sweeney and the Bruins, who must prepare for what awaits them Friday, once the free agent market opens, and later in the month when they begin efforts to re-sign Brad Marchand to an extension. 

 

Wilfork on Body Issue: 'Looking forward to what the locker room's going to say'

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Wilfork on Body Issue: 'Looking forward to what the locker room's going to say'

ESPN The Magazine's Body Issue won't hit newsstands until July 8, but Vince Wilfork gave people a not-so-little preview of what to expect this week.

The former Patriots defensive lineman, who is listed at 325 pounds but said he's weighed as much as 350 pounds, sat down for an interview about his size that landed on ESPN.com on Thursday.

"I just think it's a good idea for people that are bigger-boned," Wilfork said when asked why he posed nude for the Body Issue. "If people can look at me, a guy that's 325-plus, doing an issue like this, I'm pretty sure that they might have a little confidence.

"There will be critics, just like with everything else. I think a lot of people will get a laugh out of it, I'll tell you that. I'm looking forward to what the locker room's going to say. But at the end of the day, I'm perfectly fine with who I am as a person and what I have accomplished. It shows a lot of my personality."

You can read the full interview here, as well as watch a video that shows Wilfork in all his modeling glory.