Like all Patriots fans, Drew Bledsoe watched in awe Monday night as Tom Brady riddled the Miami Dolphins to the tune of a single-game franchise record 517 yards. In doing so, Brady knocked Bledsoe from the top spot in team annals, and it didn't sit well with the former franchise.
"I thought it was extremely selfish of him. Coming out here for the Hall of Fame you can't leave my name in the record book in one place?" Bledsoe joked.
In reality, Bledsoe wasn't even aware he still held that or any other record in team history. Speaking as one of the team's two Hall of Fame inductees (along with Jon Morris) about to be enshrined this weekend, Bledsoe expressed his deep admiration for the Patriots current record-setter.
"Actually I was quite surprised honestly to hear that I still had one of those records," Bledsoe said. "Tom has never been a guy who worries about or thinks about numbers other than wins and losses. It was truly not a big deal to him."
The induction ceremony is scheduled for Saturday at 5 p.m. at the Hall at Patriot Place presented by Raytheon. Bledsoe said he still exchanges a text with his former teammate from time to time, and watching him blossom into the game's best has been thrilling.
"I'm so proud of that guy and what he's done and the way he's done it," Bledsoe began. "Not only has he been one of the very best players in the league now for a long time but he's continued to handle himself with class on and off the field. So I'm really proud of what he's done."
Of course it would be understandable if Bledsoe felt he had at least a part in that. Brady joined the Patriots in 2000 with Bledsoe still firmly in control of the quarterback job. A year later, as Brady ascended from unknown rookie fourth-stringer to backup, Bledsoe was knocked from the lineup after a vicious hit from the Jets Mo Lewis, Brady took over and the rest is history.
The only time the two would switch spots again came in what Bledsoe called one of his most memorable moments as a Patriot.
"Maybe coming back in the AFC Championship Game in Pittsburgh. That was a poignant moment for me for a lot of reasons – the magnitude of the game, not having played in quite a while and being able to get back on the field. That one stands out," he said.
He also added the comeback win over Minnesota in 1994 – a game that saw him rally the Patriots from a 20-0 deficit to a 26-20 overtime win while setting NFL records with 45 completions in 70 attempts — among his highlights. But with so much history in his nine years in New England he had a hard time picking just one.
As he reflected on his time with the Patriots, an era that saw the team emerge from the brink of relocating to St. Louis to the stability that came with the Kraft ownership and ultimately to the three Super Bowl titles it currently owns, Bledsoe felt proud to be a part of it.
"It's humbling first of all. But it's also something I take great pride in," Bledsoe said. "I take great pride in being part of those teams. Being the quarterback obviously it's the same old game where you get more credit than you deserve but being a part of those teams that started to turn this franchise in the right direction is something I take a lot of pride in."
The fact that he was voted into the Hall by the fans was also a source of pride.
"It's cool. Playing in New England and in the Boston area, the fans are so passionate about their sports," he continued. "If you don't play well they'll let you know. I know it's not something they take lightly so from that standpoint it means more coming from New England sports fans than it would coming from another town because I know they take it seriously. So I was very flattered."
Morris was equally moved by the honor, and expressed particular appreciation for the Kraft family. Although he spent his entire career under the watch of the Sullivans in the 1960 and '70s, he appreciates how Robert Kraft embraced him and others from his era.
"When I retired from football there was no Hall of Fame, there was no alumni association … once it was over, it was over," Morris said. "I don't mean that as a criticism of the Sullivans, that's just the way it was. But when the Krafts took over they immediately welcomed all the alumni with open arms. And not just, come on out to a party once in a while, but anytime you want to come to a game, you're welcome. We got this Hall of Fame and we're going to put some of you guys in there.
"They really made you feel you were part of this organization and I still feel that way and I don't even live here. You can see the results of it. Three Super Bowl rings don't just happen. It's just a wonderful thing they've done and you can see it starts from the top and it's worked."