Courtesy of New England Patriots
Drew Bledsoe (center) and (from left) Tedy Bruschi, Troy Brown, Todd Rucci, and Scott Zolak.* After three action-packed days of activities in conjunction with the Hall of Fame induction (and a halftime ceremony looming during the Patriots' home-opener on Sunday), Bledsoe said the most rewarding part of the experience has been bringing his four children -- Stuart, John, Henry, and Healy -- back to the region. Bledsoe noted earlier in the week that he lives a "normal" life now back in Washington, where his only gridiron activity is coaching multiple flag football teams. This was a chance to show his children what a rock star Daddy used to be in the region. Only trouble, he got upstaged -- again -- by a certain quarterback.
"[The children] were so young when I was here, they don’t remember all this stuff, so it’s been really cool to take them up to Fenway for a game and we brought them down here to tour the stadium," explained Bledsoe. "Unfortunately, I used to be a big deal. Now, to them, I’m just the guy that can introduce them to Tom Brady. But they thought that was pretty cool, and Tommy was awfully gracious."
* There might never be a member of the Hall as appreciative for the gesture as Morris, who after several years of falling short in the fan vote, was voted in by a senior committee. He might have been the warm-up act to Bledsoe, but he certainly won over the overflow crowd with an entertaining speech that mixed gridiron anecdotes with genuine appreciation for those that helped him during his career -- particularly his wife, Gail -- and some fantastic humor. Looking out at the crowd as he started his speech, Morris deadpanned, "If we had gotten a crowd this size in my day, we'd have played a doubleheader for you."
* After the inductions, four former teammates were brought on stage for a brief panel discussion with the inductee. Bledsoe's panel featured Tedy Bruschi, Troy Brown, Todd Rucci, and Scott Zolak. It culminated with a discussion on pranks to which Rucci told the story of how the Patriots arrived back at the stadium late after one game to find a fresh foot of snow had hit the region. As the story goes, Bledsoe got picked up by a limo that night, so Rucci and Zolak fetched their shovels and proceeded to not only dig out their own vehicles, but shovel in Bledsoe's car. When freezing rain fell that morning, it left Bledsoe's car encased in a block of sheer ice for a few days before he was able to dig it out.
Bledsoe got his revenge, however, as Rucci lamented. The Patriots practiced on Christmas Eve. soon after and players were in a rush to get home to be with their families. Rucci said he arrived back at his condo, opened his door, and the only thing he saw was his dog. It turned out Bledsoe hired a moving company to shuttle all Rucci's belongings to the basement while the team practiced.
Rucci went to Bledsoe's house that night for dinner and, as the quarterback recalled, didn't say anything to him, "which was awesome." In fact, after struggling with trying to move his mattress back upstairs by himself later that night, Rucci decided instead to sleep in a local hotel. Merry Christmas.
* Rucci antics aside, Bledsoe made sure to show his appreciation for his linemen. He even went out of his way to single out Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia. Bledsoe also noted how his mother, Barbara, used to bake the offensive linemen cookies.
* Morris joked about playing three forgettable seasons with the Detroit Lions after leaving New England, but noted that one of the ironies was that coach Bill Belichick was a part of the Lions' staff during his time there. The two chatted about old times after Belichick invited both Hall of Famers to the team's walkthrough Saturday. Morris declined the opportunity to talk to the team -- letting Bledsoe handle that task -- but he did seek out center Dan Koppen in the trainer's room.
"I got a chance to pat him on the back, wish him the best," said Morris. "I've been down that road once myself some time ago."
Morris said Koppen appeared to be in good spirits and suggested he'd be back on the field again this season.
* Kraft's introduction of Bledsoe was fascinating. After asking the crowd when the last time they rooted against the Patriots was, Kraft noted he did just that on Dec. 27, 1992. It was the regular-season finale against Miami and a loss ensured New England would get the No. 1 pick in the draft. Kraft was almost upset when the Patriots opened a 13-3 halftime lead, but the Dolphins rallied to win, 16-13, in overtime, setting into motion Bledsoe's arrival.
How ironic, too, that a year later, it was a New England overtime win over the Dolphins in the 1993 regular-season finale that Kraft suggested might have ultimately convinced him to overpay in order to keep the Patriots in Foxborough. Remember that James Orthwein bought the team in 1992 and had a desire to move the franchise to his native St. Louis. But because the Patriots had an agreement to play on Kraft's property in Foxborough -- one that the soon-to-be-owner refused to be bought out of -- it prevented that move. Kraft said Saturday he remembers being overcome with emotion when Bledsoe hit Michael Timpson with a 36-yard touchdown pass in overtime of that 33-27 triumph that left Foxboro Stadium rocking and fans chanting for the team to stay in the region.
Soon after Kraft bought the team for a then-NFL record $175 million and he said Saturday it was Bledsoe that gave him the courage to overpay for the team.