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Drew Bledsoe Press Conf.

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            **Q: The bandana law the league is trying to impose, how do you feel about that?**  

D: I have never thought that the bandanas were a real big deal and a lot of guys, I was talking with Lawyer Milloy today and he really likes it because it keeps his helmet from slipping down so it can be a safety issue in some ways. The league has always been very strict on their uniform codes and so on, but is this one going a little too far? Maybe it is, I don't know.

Q: Everybody talks about coming in and being committed and I guess Bill (Belichick) was quoted as saying he was disappointed last year with the way guys showed up, do you think that guys could have worked harder?

D: In retrospect, yes you can always do more and I know he was disappointed with the way that a number of guys came in and the kind of shape some guys were in when they came into training camp, but I also think that he has done a good job of establishing that he is not going to stand for that and because of that hopefully we will have that situation rectified this year. There were a lot of guys that he specifically was disappointed in that simply aren't around any more.

Q: What did you do to your knee?

D: Nothing it is just a little sore. I'm 29 man that's old, no, when I was out west to stay in shape I was running on the road and I think that running on that pavement kind of made it a little sore, but it is not a big deal.

Q: If you were running the draft would you take a left tackle, a running back or a wide receiver?

D: Honestly I think this is probably the position of our organization without even talking to them that it kind of depends on who is left at the specific positions and how they have them rated. I think that obviously there are some specific needs that we need to fulfill, but that being said I would imagine that our organization would go with the best player available at those specific positions when our pick comes up and then maybe even trade down if a particular guy that they are looking for isn't there.

Q: Do you think they have put your cap money to good use here?

D: Yes it looks like we have got some guys that are good solid football players and hopefully guys that can fit in immediately and make an impact for us. Obviously the work isn't done yet and how we draft this year will be extremely important, but I think that from what I have seen they are bringing in guys that appear to be good solid football players. There are not a lot of flashy guys coming through here, but some guys that have been solid contributors on their teams in the past year.

Q: Do you think there is more to come as far as getting you some weapons?

D: Yes I think that they are still looking and as I said there are some specific areas, for instance we have got to figure out who the third receiver is going to be. Whether it is one of the guys that is here I don't know. There were a lot of guys that had opportunities to fill that role last year and nobody jumped up and grabbed it so that is one area that probably will be addressed.

Q: Young guys and draft choices never think about windows of opportunity, but you mentioned you are 29, as each offseason rolls into another season do you start thinking about that shrinking window of opportunity?

D: No question, no question, especially as I see the guys that I have played with for a long time that are disappearing and moving on. One of the things that I think that has hurt us maybe the most in the past few years is that I think that there are some young guys that have come through who have failed to grasp how short that window of opportunity is. At times some of the newer and younger players kind of come in with the idea that, 'Well you know I am going to have a lot of opportunity at this, it doesn't have to happen this year for me.'

Q: And how has that urgency manifested itself in your thought process, your preparation, your leadership?

D: I don't know that it is going to change all that much, the way that I prepare the way that I approach things. All along I feel like I have been doing as much as I can to try and put us into a position to win. Does it give me a little extra motivation, I don't know. I don't really think it does for me, but I think that the one thing that I can do and that guys like Lawyer (Milloy) and Willie (McGinest) can do is try to very early on establish in the minds of some of the younger guys, 'Hey listen you have to step up and contribute now there is no red-shirt program, there is no grace period here for you to try and develop you have to step up and contribute to this team now.' So that is probably one area where we can help a little bit.

Q: Have the coaches given you a detailed explanation as to exactly what they are trying to do with all of these signings, what there plan is for next year?

D: I have talked kind of briefly with Charlie (Weis). I haven't talked to Bill (Belichick) much specifically about the guys that we have signed or what we are trying to do, but I think what they are trying to do is they are trying as hard as they can to try and find value. You know find guys at the right price that can come in and contribute and have an impact on our team. I don't know that you are going to see us go and sign big marquee players, but I think right now that the emphasis is trying to find value at the right position.

Q: When you were back in Montana do you look at was happening here and say what is this?

D: I was two or three days behind the news while I was out there for most of the time, but yes I was watching it with some interest from afar, but as I have expressed in the past I do have confidence in our organization and their ability to find guys and find the value that we are looking for.

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            **Q: Is it frustrating to come back every year and not have a running game in place?**  

D: Yes well it has been a few years now since we have had that really established. I am excited seeing Robert Edwards walking around and I have heard that he is making drastic progress, so maybe that is the answer, but yes that hasn't been a settled issue for us since Curtis left. We have had a number of different guys come through, it looked like Robert maybe was going to be the guy and then he gets hurt so that has been an unsettling issue to have to deal with each offseason, but hopefully this year we will get it straightened out.

Q: It looks like Bruce (Armstrong) won't be returning?

D: Yes as a matter of fact Bruce came by last night and we talked for a little bit. He is not giving up hope and I am not giving up hope that he might be back, but regardless of what happens with him I think his legacy is in tact here and what he has accomplished, what Bruce has accomplished as a Patriot will always be recognized, but if he could come back for another year I think he might. Whether the organization decides to do that or not I don't know.

Q: Given the strategy as far as free agency how important does the draft become and how risky is it to depend on that?

D: The way that the league works now with free agency the draft is going to be of great importance for every team every year because you see all of these salary cap casualties, guys moving on, guys getting cut, guys getting traded and so and in order to replace those guys and build a team that has more than just brief periods of success you have to be able to draft well and develop the young players. So the draft is hugely important but it is one piece of the puzzle. You put that together with the core group of guys that we have and a few select free agency signings and that becomes a team.

Q: The coach said down at the winter meetings that a lot of guys are still caught up in 1996 that they don't realize how things have changed. Do you realize that how far this team has slipped and how much has to be done?

D: Oh sure. I think it is very evident. I just had a conversation with Lawyer (Milloy) and you look at the most obvious thing there aren't that many players here that were here in 1996. That is the most obvious thing, but the makeup of the team has changed drastically and I don't know that the personality of the team has changed that much, but the pieces of that puzzle that helped us to win the AFC Championship, a lot of those are not in place any more. If we are going to get back to that level you can't take the blueprint from 1996 and just try and fit guys into those slots. You have to play to the strengths that are available to you and what exactly that personality will be of our team that gets up back there I am not sure, but I just hope it happens quick.

Q: What was the blueprint in 1996?

D: Defensively I think we were very opportunistic. We forced a lot of turnovers defensively and we made things hard on people. Offensively we could be explosive and we had a lot of very versatile players. We had Curtis Martin who was excellent out of the backfield running the ball and then he could run routes for you, he could do all of those kind of things. We had Dave Meggett who would make a couple of plays for us every game. We had Keith Byars who was a very versatile guy. We had Ben Coates who was still in his prime. Shawn Jefferson and Terry (Glenn) were explosive. We had a lot of different players offensively that could make plays for us. The last couple of years we really depended very, very heavily on just a couple of guys and that makes it difficult.

Q: Any departures catch you by surprise?

D: I mean it is always a little bit surprising, but (Chad) Eaton's situation I kind of saw that coming. First of all I think he wanted to be back at home and I guess that would make it hard for our team to get him signed. (Larry) Whigham that was a little bit of a surprise, but his production had fallen off the last few years so I don't know. No big surprises really, not nearly as surprising as a year ago when Ben (Coates) goes and then Bruce (Armstrong) and those kind of things. It wasn't surprising like those were.

Q: Is Charlie (Weis) planning any changes in the passing game at all?

D: He is kind of in that process right now. We have talked just briefly about it, but he is in the process of going back through everything right now and looking at the things that we did well and what kind of things we can change terminology-wise, scheme-wise all of those things. He and the offensive staff are really running back through and trying to pick through all of that stuff. I have just talked to him briefly about it, but in the next few days I will sit down with him.

Q: Back-to-back years in the same system?

D: Yes, yes it is crazy. Our foundation is doing our parenting conference on Saturday so if any of you guys could throw in a little blurb that would be a great favor to us. We are in Framingham up here on Saturday morning.

Q: Are your parents the experts or you and Maura?

D: My parents are the experts. We are still learning. They have got us on the run, there is no question. Stu got me up this morning. He had me going this morning throwing stuff at me.

Q: Why is that important to you? There are a lot of things that you could do with your foundation why that?

D: It is a function partly of the fact that I have been really lucky. This year my family has had some tragedy with my grandfather and a couple of close friends that have passed on, but if you are going to establish a foundation it has to be something that is close to your heart and we have been very blessed there is not something in our immediate family that has touched us extremely closely, but when I look back at when I was growing up what was important to me and what it was that allowed me to be successful, but also happy and all of those things was my parents. Then when you start to look at it seems kind of crazy that you go through all of this schooling and I know how to sew a pillow from home ec in eighth grade, but nobody ever said a word to me about how to be a parent. It is the easiest job in the world to get and the hardest one to do well, but the big thing that we have tried to do with our foundation is we don't want to be in the business of telling people they are bad parents because I don't want to hear that and nobody else does, but we want to help supply some skills to help make good parents becomes great parents. Saturday we are bringing in a lot of different people to talk on different topics from having a kid in little league and how to handle those situations, to kids just starting to drive and how to you deal with that responsibility, from drugs to communication skills to all kinds of stuff. So we are really branching and trying to address a lot of different children and parent issues. Hopefully it is something that will continue to grow in this area now that we know that I am going to be here for a number of years.

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