Vinny Testaverde began his 20th season as an NFL quarterback Wednesday when he arrived at Gillette Stadium as a Patriot. He'll be wearing quarterback-turned-analyst Steve Grogan's old No. 14 for the Pats, though you may remember him most recently as No. 16 for the Jets.
Coach Bill Belichick said he's known Testaverde for many years. Testaverde was Belichick's quarterback in Cleveland from 1993 to 1995 and was reunited with him when Belichick was on the Jets coaching staff from 1997 to 1999.
"He's got some experience in our system," said Belichick on Wednesday. "Hopefully he'll be able to pick things up and we can have him in an emergency role. Hopefully we won't ever need him, and I've told him that. I hope he doesn't play at all. But if something happens, at least we have ourselves protected there."
Belichick was careful to explain that Testaverde is not in competition with Matt Cassel for the role as Tom Brady's backup.
"He's an emergency quarterback," said Belichick. "He's the third quarterback. He'll be inactive for every game as the third quarterback unless something happens to the other two guys. I don't know how I could possibly be any clearer about that. I don't think there's any need to ask that question six more times and get the same answer either. He's the third quarterback!"
"That's the idea," said Testaverde, who's fine with not playing. "He told me he just wanted me to come in [the game] in an emergency situation. Obviously you have Tom [Brady] and Matt [Cassel], who is a young player who has a lot of ability. But, hey, over the years, as a player, if you understand your role you have a better chance to be successful and help the team be successful."
Testaverde seemed to have an easy-going attitude about playing for the Patriots, though he called the franchise, "a first-class organization." The 43-year-old quarterback said he's in "pretty decent shape," admitting that he's been in better shape in previous years.
He played for five different NFL teams before arriving at New England. His professional career began back in 1987 when he was selected first overall in the NFL Draft after winning the 1986 Heisman Trophy. In his illustrious career, Testaverde's played in 223 NFL games with 208 starts. Additionally, he's thrown 269 career touchdowns, which ranks eighth in NFL history.
Testaverde ranks sixth in NFL history with 45,252 passing yards and also places sixth in league annals with 3,691 career completions. He's thrown for 300 or more yards 30 times in his career and has posted a passer rating of 100.0 or higher on 48 occasions.
"I guess [I'm here] because golf season is over and nothing else is going on in my life," said the veteran quarterback with a smile. "But, all kidding aside, a lot of my friends and family asked me why I am still doing this and the simple reason is because I still think I can go out on the field and be productive if need be.
"I am here to help in any way I can. If that's taking some snaps on the scout team and helping Matt [Cassel] out so that he can also better prepare himself with what he has to get done, then yes. I just love being around football. I enjoy it. I feel like I can still do it. So I am going to milk it to the very end."
At 6-5, 235-pounds, Testaverde makes a fine stand-in for fellow gray-haired veteran QB Brett Favre on the Pats scout team. The Patriots take on Favre and the Packers in Lambeau Field on Sunday.