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Bledsoe joins Cowboys, reunites with Parcells

IRVING, Texas (Feb. 23, 2005) -- Drew Bledsoe set passing records and reached the Super Bowl as a young quarterback playing for Bill Parcells in New England. Nearly a decade later, the duo will try doing it again with the Dallas Cowboys.

Bledsoe was given a three-year contract with the Cowboys.

"Bill wants me here, and being the starter. I anticipate that being the case and not for one year," Bledsoe during a news conference one day after the Buffalo Bills officially released him.

Bledsoe knew last week he was going to be cut and within days decided he wanted to be reunited with Parcells. Once the Bills filed the paperwork, the Cowboys quickly showed they also were eager to strike a deal.

Parcells called Bledsoe -- and told him he would be the starter -- while team vice president Stephen Jones called the quarterback's agent, David Dunn. Owner Jerry Jones then spoke with Bledsoe and Dunn, and the pair flew to Dallas and held an afternoon news conference.

"I was very hopeful that this would be the opportunity for me," said Bledsoe, already sporting a tie that nicely matched the team's colors. "I'm very thankful it happened as quickly as it did. I'm very excited to be a Dallas Cowboy. I can't wait to go home and dress my kids with the little stars and get rid of all the old gear from the other team."

Bledsoe was smiling as his jab at the Bills drew laughs, but he also was seriously disappointed about how things turned out in Buffalo. He mentioned needing time to get over his anger toward the team for handing his job to youngster J.P. Losman without an on-field competition and later added that he hopes to prove them wrong.

"There's no question that is A motivating factor," said Bledsoe, who proved something to the Patriots by throwing for more than 4,000 yards and making the Pro Bowl the season after they traded him to Buffalo. "It's not THE motivating factor. THE motivating factor is that I want to stand on the field and hold up that trophy at the end of the season."

Jones repeated several themes throughout the news conference: That signing Bledsoe was supported by himself and everyone else in the organization (meaning not only Parcells) and that having Bledsoe makes Dallas an immediate contender despite having gone 6-10 last season.

"We think we got the very best option available to us," Jones said.

Bledsoe's attraction to Dallas began with Parcells, the coach who chided him so much during his first four years in the NFL that the quarterback once told his father, "I can't wait until Sundays because I can get on the field and he can't be yelling at me. You're out there in front of 70,000 fans and it's the quietest it's been on the field all week."

Yet as the years passed, Bledsoe learned to appreciate Parcells' gruff style. They even developed somewhat of a friendship, with Parcells occasionally calling Bledsoe when times were tough -- such as 2001, when he was injured, lost his job to Tom Brady and eventually was traded to the Bills. Bledsoe said Parcells also called him during his first year in Buffalo to wish him good luck.

Drew Bledsoe was released from the Bills after three seasons and a 23-25 record.

Parcells, who didn't attend the news conference, showed what he thought of Bledsoe by making him the top overall pick in the 1993 NFL Draft, starting him as a rookie and letting him throw a league-record 691 passes his second season. Two years later, the Patriots reached the Super Bowl but lost to Green Bay. Parcells then left for the New York Jets.

Bledsoe led New England to the playoffs the next two years, but hasn't started a playoff game since 1998. The Bills went 23-25 over his three seasons and never made the playoffs. They came close last season, rebounding from 0-4 to 9-6 going into the finale, which is why he was so upset Buffalo gave up on him.

Now Bledsoe's main emotion is excitement over his new teammates. He knows Terry Glenn from their six seasons together in New England and Parcells says he'll love tight end Jason Witten. Bledsoe also is looking forward to playing with running back Julius Jones and receiver Keyshawn Johnson.

"I can't wait to go sit down with Bill, sit down with (passing game coordinator) Sean Payton, and start talking about what we're going to do," Bledsoe said.

While the 33-year-old Bledsoe is eight years younger than predecessor Vinny Testaverde, his arrival means Drew Henson must wait even longer if he's to become Dallas' quarterback of the future.

Last spring, the Cowboys outmaneuvered many teams to land Henson when he returned to football after three years playing minor-league baseball. He signed an eight-year deal with expectations he would grow into the job. Now his path appears blocked, although Jones said he called Henson to try convincing him otherwise.

For reasons ranging from Henson's stunted development to questions about how much Bledsoe has left after 12 seasons, this signing has drawn more than a few raised eyebrows. Bledsoe heard plenty and offered a message for his critics.

"I'm not going to sit up here and defend myself," he said. "The one thing I will say is that when my time as a Dallas Cowboy is done, then the story will be written and I think it'll be a story that will have a lot of success involved."

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