**Robert Kraft:** On behalf of my family and all of the fans and the organization, this is a very happy day in the life of the New England Patriots. Having been a big sports fan here I think back to some of the great people who have played in this town, remembering Ted Williams, Bill Russell, Larry Bird and I remember feeling sorry when Bobby Orr left and today I think we have an opportunity to secure one of the great Patriots for the rest of his career as we announce that Drew has just signed a ten year contract to remain the rest of his career as a New England Patriot. I think that is only fitting because he came here and was part of the resurgence of football in the New England region and I think that it is only fair and worthy that he have chance to open our new house and play in our new house, CMGI Field, the year after this coming season. Which means that he only has one year left to try to help bring a championship to the old Foxboro Stadium. So we are all rooting for that, but if it doesn't happen this coming year, please God, it will happen soon there after.
The timing of this arrangement, some people might wonder and question how it happened and I want to give a lot of credit to David Dunn for that because I think Drew had told him how important it was that if we are to get a new deal done that it is important for our cap, and our future going forward, that we solidify it as soon as possible so that we have an opportunity to look at the free agent market. He instructed David, and I must say that David and the entire agency have worked with us to get this deal done. So it is a very happy day for our organization. At this point I would like to turn it over to Coach Belichick.
Bill Belichick: Thank you. As a coach it is very important to know that your key players are going to be with you for awhile. I am in it for the long-term and we want to develop a strong franchise here in the long term and it is great going forward to know that Drew is committed here for a long time. That makes it a lot easier for our planning and stability of the team and the strength of the team. I think we all know how much Drew means to this organization and to our football team and what he has done on and off the field and I am very pleased that both sides have been able to reach an agreement and that Drew will be a Patriot for a long time. Drew…
Drew Bledsoe: First and foremost I want to express my gratitude to the Kraft family and specifically to Robert Kraft and the Patriots organization for once again showing a great commitment to winning football and bringing a championship to New England and for showing this commitment at a time that they are committing unprecedented resources to a new facility in Foxboro that will be the best in football and it is something that I am excited about being a part of. I would like to say thank you to Coach Belichick for his support and for his belief in me that was instrumental in getting this deal done. I would like to thank Andy Wasynczuk for putting in all of the hours over the months and even maybe years it took to get this thing done. I would also like to thank Dave Dunn for his time and effort that he expended in doing this deal and doing a deal that is not only beneficial to me, but also is a deal that is important for the big picture as far as going forward and winning football games and winning championships in New England.
I have expressed over and over again through the years my desire to play my entire career for the New England Patriots organization and I am excited today with this contract that it looks like that is a very real possibility for me to play my entire career with a great organization. I am excited about the fact that this gives us some long-term stability and will allow Coach and his staff to go build a team and ultimately bring a championship to New England in the years to come. I thank you guys all for coming and braving the snow storm. It is beautiful out here in New England at this time of the year. With that I think we are going to open it up to some questions.
Q: Drew not only are you here, but at the same time you have freed up a lot of money and build maybe some offensive help around you. How important is that?
Drew Bledsoe: That ultimately is the motivation for doing this deal. I expressed over the years that I feel that I have been extremely well compensated as a football player and was very happy with the contract I was playing under, but the motivation to do this deal is to free up some cap room and to solidify our situation at least from my position going forward, so that we do have some freedom to go and do some of those things.
Q: Why did it take this long to get it done?
Drew Bledsoe: I don't have a direct answer for that, that is kind of the way things go and that's what it was.
Q: What was the breakthrough that caused it to get done?
Drew Bledsoe: I don't know it just finally broke and got to a point, Mr. Kraft and I had some frank discussions and conversations and ultimately the situation was worked out with Dave and the organization.
Robert Kraft: I think in fairness to Drew, he and I never really spoke firsthand with any seriousness until last weekend. The team, and this is after discussions with our entire organization, let me say this, it is clear to me that if Drew had waited and wanted to go and test free agency and not do something, he probably could have got a lot more money then he is getting with us. I think he is committed to this team, he is committed to winning, as he knows our family and organization is. I think we are lucky to have him here given the kind of human being he is and what he represents off the field as well as on the field and I think probably 80 percent of the teams in the NFL would like to be in our position today and I think that Drew and I had that discussion over the weekend. We realized that timeliness was important and that if he wanted to get it done we both had to move a bit and close it out for the good of the team and let Coach Belichick go about his planning. We know feel all of the pieces are in place that gives us the best chance of winning on a consistent basis.
Q: Who initiated those discussions?
Robert Kraft: I think I probably did.
Drew Bledsoe: Yes you tracked me down. He tracked me down and it is not an easy think to do at this point in my year, on purpose, I am pretty hard to find, but he found me.
Q: You have always said that you have wanted to stay here, but did the thought of just testing the waters of free agency ever enter your mind?
Drew Bledsoe: Did it ever cross my mind? Certainly that was something that was a thought process, but it was never a realistic process because the situation that I am in here I recognize, first of all, how blessed I am to be in this situation with an organization that truly is committed to winning, that is committed to building a tradition in a great sports area. So was free agency ever a thought? It was brought up and I have been asked the questions, but was it ever a realistic possibility in my mind? No it wasn't. I feel very fortunate to be an athlete in New England and I feel very fortunate to be a part of this organization and expressed all along that that was my desire to be a part of this organization and this region until I am done playing football.
Q: What kind of effect did Brett Farve signing his new deal have on this?
Drew Bledsoe: The other contracts that are out there, as far as the timing and so on, that really didn't have an effect, but obviously there are other contracts that are out there in the market that you look at, but that didn't really have an effect on this one.
**Q: Since the conversation took place and the end of this past season did it you ever think that you wouldn't be sitting here and this wouldn't get done?**
Drew Bledsoe: No I had confidence that it would be done and for two reasons because I wanted to be here and I felt like the organization wanted me to be here. So with the motivation there on both sides I felt like at some point this would get done. I didn't have any specific idea of that timeframe, but I firmly believed that this would happen at some point.
Q: Do you have any idea how you would like that money to be spent, the money that you saved?
Drew Bledsoe: I am going to defer on that.
Robert Kraft: Be careful, when I hear that, the money being saved, it is like my wife going to Neiman Marcus saving money on a sale, she saved me a lot of money this week.
Bill Belichick: Robert just remember the more you spend the more you save.
Q: How much cap space does this open?
Robert Kraft: I think that Andy (Wasynczuk) and Dave Dunn can talk about that afterwards. It is not a straight-line question. It works in different sequences, but it does give us quite a few million dollars.
Q: There was a report a few months ago that there were organization doubts about whether to proceed with Drew over the long-term. Did those doubts ever exist in your mind?
Robert Kraft: We wouldn't be sitting here. It has never once been in my mind. Sometimes our friends in the media like to stir the pot, slow circulation weeks I guess I don't know, but not in my mind.
Q: Robert what made you feel that you needed to make that one-on-one contact with Drew over the weekend?
Robert Kraft: Well in business there are times to bring things to closure and if we didn't bring this to closure I think we would have hurt the New England Patriots ability to win football games in the future because we couldn't plan, we wouldn't know how to allocate our resources. We had given ourselves a certain deadline to get this done and we were fast approaching that deadline.
Q: What was that deadline?
Robert Kraft: That is an internal deadline, but just for our own planning purposes going forward. We always felt we would get a deal it is just sometimes there are certain catalytic things that have to happen to make it happen and I basically called Drew and said, 'It's time and let's focus in on this' and it was done and his representatives did what they had to do and we did what we had to do.
Q: How close did you come to the deadline?
Robert Kraft: There was plenty of time left.
Q: Where did you reach Drew in Montana or elsewhere?
Drew Bledsoe: I was in Montana, but I simultaneously got messages from about eight different sources.
Robert Kraft: I wasn't subtle.
Q: As you said you are hard to get a hold of this time of year, but have you been aware of the debate between you and the mobile quarterback of the future and I guess what I am asking is do you feel why do you have to still win people over at this stage of your career?
Drew Bledsoe: Ultimately that will all be resolved when we win a championship. That's where it is and ultimately as a quarterback I am going to be judged by how many games we win and if I can bring a championship to New England and I feel that is a fair standard to be judged by. If I accomplish that and if we accomplish that as a team then that debate won't be there any longer, but until then at the position of quarterback there is always going to be debates about whether the team is better off with a different style or what have you, but I will just simply tell you that I am going to do everything I can and everything I can with my ability to go forward and win games.
Robert Kraft: I would just like to pick up on that because this is the eighth season that our family has the privilege to own this team and knowing how I feel and how the fans feel, I don't think we have ever been in a better position to put ourselves in than we are this year of being able to win football games on a consistent basis. We have a coaching staff and a personnel staff that is on the same page. I personally believe in the way they are organized. They have financial discipline and we also have the key position, I feel locked up for the long-term and a lot of good things can happen. Also because of our new facility we are going to be able to compete for free agents toe to toe with other clubs. We have always been at a disadvantage, it's hard for us to fully understand that with our climate and our facilities, but now we excel in every area and it is something that I am personally very excited about in terms of putting ourselves in the best position to win.
Q: Drew, Mr. Kraft said that you probably could have gone elsewhere and made more money, is it because you have an investment here in the community?
Drew Bledsoe: The number one reason that I am excited to be here and be apart of this organization, the number one reason that I have said over and over again that I want to be here for the long haul is because I believe in the organization itself and that starts at the top. We have probably the best owner in the football league who has now a great staff around him with Coach Belichick and it is an organization and a system I believe in and that is number one reason. On top of that I do have some roots in the area, we have built a home here and it is an area that I have really come to enjoy and that is important to me, but that is secondary to my belief in the organization.
Q: Will you be making another donation to the
Drew Bledsoe: We are going forward with the foundation. Exactly what shape that will take we don't know yet, but yes there will be charitable donations and the foundation will go forward and so on and so forth. We are, with my foundation, with the Drew Bledsoe Foundation, going to have a much larger presence in New England. At the end of this month we are going forward.
Q: Mr. Kraft mentioned Bobby Orr and what happened to him and other greats, we know what that means to him and other new Englanders, is that part of this, does that mean something to you to be a part of the Boston teams here?
Drew Bledsoe: It does and ultimately when I am done, if we accomplish what we want to accomplish then hopefully I will have a legacy that will be part of that. That is important to me and in this day and age with free agency in the NFL there are very few guys that get to play their entire career with one franchise and this contract hopefully, barring something unforeseen down the road, allows me to be able to play my entire career for one organization and that is very, very rare these days and it something that when I look back I will be proud of.
**Q: Drew you said a few years ago that you only saw yourself playing maybe ten seasons, do you have any thoughts on how long you will play or will you just keep going as long as your body lets you?**
Drew Bledsoe: Right now I don't honestly have a timeframe, I really don't. I think I will probably play as long as I feel like we have a chance to win and as long as my body is healthy and as long as I feel like I am able to perform at a level that gives us a chance to win. Other factors there, I don't know, but right now I foresee playing for awhile.
Q: Recent history tells us what bad drafts do to the long-term outlook, how much do you expect to be involved in the critical process the next 6-8 weeks?
Drew Bledsoe: I will be available to help recruit if Bill would like me to make a call to somebody, but as far as the analysis process they have got a very good system to do that and they have very good people that do that and I will be available to help in anyway that I am called upon, but as far as giving input that will only be when I am asked for it.
Q: Bill now that you do have the cap space will this change all of your pursuits of free agents, bigger names, or do you have your plan in place and you'll go from there?
Bill Belichick: We have had a plan in place and we are actively working on that. This does clear a little bit of cap space in the short-term, but we have a lot of needs and there are a number of things to address we will just try to spend the dollars wisely. There are players on our team that we would certainly consider extending their contracts and of course there are other players out there that we could also consider in the mix. I think the main thing is for us to spend our dollars wisely and get good value for the money and try to improve the team anyway can. There are a number of ways that could happen.
Q: What is your preference for which way to go?
Bill Belichick: Get the best players.
Q: Which way, you must have a priority?
Bill Belichick: Well you just have to weigh it. You just have to weigh it back and forth. What we have that's available, what else is out there and where the two meet. Each situation is different. Obviously there are certain people that are key to keep on your football team, Lawyer Milloy was one last year, Drew is one this year. There will always be a few of those key guys, but in terms of building up the whole team and every player and every position is important we just want to try to strengthen it in anyway we can and we will evaluate all of the options.
Q: Robert over the eight years, this process when you get to this time of the year, how does this play into your anxieties as you watched this entire process knowing how critical this time is?
Robert Kraft: Well most people would say that I am too optimistic, but I would think anyone who has the privilege to own an NFL team today, at this point in time, believes that they have great things in store for them the coming year and if they don't feel it now they are in big trouble, but I think they are making great moves. This is Bill's second year, he has put a system in place, if you can understand how important it is to have financial discipline, I know a lot of our fans would like us to jump out into the free agent market and do something splashy, but if it doesn't make good football sense both short-term and long-term, they are not going to do it. They have a system for getting value and developing players and I have bought into it and agree with it 100 percent.
Q: Speaking of splashy, where does this put the Chad Eaton situation, does this change your approach to dealing with him or are you just going to wait and see?
Bill Belichick: No, there are several hundred players out there, we have talked to a lot of them. I think it is our job to know what the market is. There are different deals getting done everyday. Actually teams are moving people on and off their roster on a daily basis, it is ongoing and it is our job to know what that market is and try to maximize our value and that includes Chad and all of the other players that are out there too. It is not limited to him, but he certainly part of that evaluation.
Q: What was your reaction when you got the messages that Mr. Kraft was looking for you?
Drew Bledsoe: Well my reaction was I better get a hold of him. They were fairly direct messages that he was looking for me and couldn't find me.
Q: Did you have a sense of what he was looking for you for, bad news, good news?
Drew Bledsoe: No, no I had a good sense with the timing. I had a good sense for why he was calling and we had our discussions and moved forward from there.
Q: Drew there was a report that you may have switched agents. Did you in fact switch from Leigh (Steinberg) to David (Dunn) or was David a part of the process the whole way through?
Drew Bledsoe: David has been my guy for four or five years and has supplied me great service over the years and did a spectacular job with this contract as I eluded to earlier, not only doing something that was very beneficial for me but understanding the big picture and doing a deal that helps the team as well. David has done just an excellent job for me and I am very happy with the relationship.
Q: Bill does this make you more tempted to go after that upper echelon type free agent or does that not fit your plan?
Bill Belichick: We evaluate every player that is out there and try to maximize our opportunities and we have done that through the entire process of free agency and we will continue to do that.
Q: Bill, is this a big week in terms of free agency, after this week the prices start to go down a little bit?
Bill Belichick: They could, I mean it is a little bit like the stock market it is hard to predict how it is going to go from day-to-day, but again it is certainly something that we just have to stay on top of. All you need is two bidders and that can drive it up in a hurry and at the same time too much supply and not enough demand and it can go the other way so we just have to monitor it on a regular basis and try to find something that fits. We found one that fit yesterday. This is the time of year where you talk to a lot of people, but there are only a few signings.
Q: Bill, it could be argue that Drew is at his best when the offense is a little more wide open and in the two minute offense, with this signing the team committing to him that maybe the offensive scheme might change a little bit from last year and will it effect your draft approach getting better players around him on offense?
Bill Belichick: We want to try to strengthen the team on both sides of the ball and in the kicking game and they are all top priorities. We weren't satisfied with our performance in area last year and we want to improve it. I don't think it would specifically change anything because offensively Drew has been our quarterback, we have been able to count on him, he has been very durable through his career and we will continue to count on him and we will do the things that he functions well doing as a quarterback and try to compliment it around him. That is what we have been doing.