According to a report in Wednesday's Nashville City Paper the Patriots contacted former Titans quarterback Neil O'Donnell earlier this week to inquire about his playing status for the 2004 season.
"The Patriots asked if I would consider doing it one more time, and I kind of laughed and said 'Call me in December and let's see how you guys are doing, maybe making another run to a Super Bowl ring," O'Donnell told the City Paper. "But as of now, I'm more or less finished."
O'Donnell, a veteran of 14 NFL seasons with experience as a starter and backup with the Steelers, Jets, Bengals and Titans, is now working with WTVF NewsChannel 5 in Tennessee. The 37-year-old last played when he signed with Titans off the street last December as the team dealt with injuries to starter Steve McNair and backup Billy Volek. O'Donnell led Tennessee to a 33-13 win over the Buccaneers in his only start of the season, completing 18-of-27 passes for 232 yards and two touchdowns with one interception for a 102.7 rating in his only action of the year. For his career O'Donnell has started 100-of-125 games played, completing 1,865-of-3,229 passes for 21,690 yards with 120 touchdowns and 68 interceptions.
O'Donnell reportedly also turned down an offer to join the New York Giants earlier this offseason, although the veteran's comments appear to leave the door on his NFL career slightly ajar.
"It's that Super Bowl ring that always leaves you on edge about maybe doing it just one last time," O'Donnell said. "I would definitely debate it and entertain it, and at least look into it to see what it's all about."
For right now though when the Patriots came asking the answer was no.
New England currently has three quarterbacks on the roster. While Tom Brady has been a durable starter over the last three seasons, the loss of veteran backup Damon Huard this offseason leaves untested young players Rohan Davey and Kliff Kingsbury fighting for number two on the depth chart.
Davey was named NFL Europe's offensive MVP after leading the Berlin Thunder to a 10-1 mark and World Bowl title, but even as the more experienced of the two players he has thrown just nine passes in mop-up duty in his young NFL career. The former 2002 fourth-round pick has been considered the favorite to back up Brady in 2004, but Patriots Head Coach Bill Belichick has said all offseason that the team would consider adding any available player who could help the team, including a veteran backup.
"I would say quarterback is the same as every other position on the team, if we have a chance to improve the team and we thought it was something that would make us better within the framework of what we could do, then we would consider it at any position," Belichick said during last week's mini camp when questioned about the possibility of adding a veteran quarterback. "We've signed players after June. We have signed players in July. We have signed players in August. When the opportunities come up, how it will fit with the team, what the circumstances will be, I don't know. I am not saying we would. I am certainly not saying we wouldn't."
New England's interest in O'Donnell may hint at a more focused search for that veteran. Or it could fall under Belichick's open-ended philosophy of considering any move that could improve the team at any position. Only time will answer that question, but the list of out-of-work veteran quarterbacks is a short one. Guys currently available in free agency include Rob Johnson, Scott Covington and Shane Mathews in what would seem to be a rather limited and shrinking marketplace.