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Bills to release Bledsoe; Losman to start

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (Feb. 16, 2005) -- Drew Bledsoe will be released by the Buffalo Bills, a move that that upset the 33-year-old quarterback, who started every game for the team the past three seasons.

The Bills will waive the 12-year veteran on Feb. 22, the first day NFL teams are allowed to officially release players, head coach Mike Mularkey said. J.P. Losman, a first-round draft choice last April, will be next year's starter.

"Our starting quarterback next year will be J.P. Losman," Mularkey said. "We had a good year last year. It was not a super year. You're constantly trying to grow. With that comes change. It was a tough decision just out of respect for Drew and J.P."

Bledsoe, obtained from New England for a first-round draft choice after the 2001 season, said he totally disagreed with the decision.

"It's a sad day for me," he said in a conference call. "I came to Buffalo with the intention of being a part of building an organization, winning a world championship in Buffalo. Didn't get it accomplished. Now, I won't have a chance to."

Bledsoe, who quarterbacked the Patriots to the Super Bowl after the 1996 season, said he was shocked at the decision to turn him loose.

"Do I think this is fair? No, I don't think it's fair," he said. "But I'm also aware that that's how it works, and I understand that. When I had the conversation with Mike and first found out the direction they were going to go with J.P., I was beside myself.

"I completely disagree and can't understand their point of view."

"It's my team," Bledsoe told reporters last month, the day after the Bills ended their season at 9-7, one win short of making the playoffs following a 29-24 loss to Pittsburgh.

Bledsoe was traded by the Patriots after losing his job to Tom Brady in 2001. Brady has led the Patriots to NFL titles in three of the last four seasons and was the MVP in two Super Bowls.

Bledsoe maintained he could still start despite declining passing stats and a 23-25 record in 48 consecutive starts, third best streak in team history.

He threw for 2,932 yards with 20 touchdowns and 16 interceptions last season and had a mediocre passer rating of 76.6.

Bledsoe, 33, reportedly informed the team he'd rather be released and find a starting job elsewhere than become a backup. He will be one of several veteran quarterbacks on the market: Cleveland is releasing Jeff Garcia and Kurt Warner is leaving the New York Giants.

Bledsoe acknowledged that Dallas would be a possible spot for him. Cowboys coach Bill Parcells chose him for New England with the first overall pick in the 1993 draft. The Bills have given him permission to negotiate with other teams.

He had two years left on a contract he restructured a year ago, scheduled to pay him $4.3 million next season, including a $1.05 million bonus due next month. By releasing him, the Bills will save $2.2 million in cap space.

Losman was the second of Buffalo's first-round picks last year, 22nd overall. He made four mop-up appearances after missing the first half of last season with a broken left leg completing 3-of-5 passes for 32 yards with one interception.

"I think when Drew came here, we were in a big black hole with this football team," team president Tom Donohoe said. "And he certainly helped us get out of that. He brought respectability back to the Bills and we owe him a debt of gratitude."

Donohoe said the Bills talked to some teams about a trade but "at this particular time there was not enough interest."

Bledsoe ranks 10th in career yards passing with 39,808. He is seventh with 3,449 completions and 18th with 221 touchdowns.

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