Sept. 23, 2001 will be a date New England Patriots fans remember forever. It changed the course of history for the organization and for the entire NFL, and especially for Patriots quarterback and surefire Hall of Famer Tom Brady, who remembers the day very well because it changed his life forever, too.
This was the day that Brady entered his first NFL game and Drew Bledsoe lost his starting job in New England.
Today is the 15-year anniversary of the hit that changed everything and NFL.com caught up Tom Brady and Drew Bledsoe to discuss the how everything unfolded in New England that day.
“It was the loudest hit I could ever remember hearing,” Tom Brady said of the hit that knocked Bledsoe out of the game in his interview with NFL.com.
The score was 10-3 in favor of the Jets and there was five minutes left to go in the fourth quarter. Bledsoe decided to try and scramble for a first down on third-and-10. Defensive end Shaun Ellis broke through the line and was chasing down Bledsoe. At the same time he got near the sideline was the same time Bledsoe met Mo Lewis.
Lewis crushed Bledsoe just before the first down marker. Of course, this all occurred way before the league took concussions much more seriously, and Bledsoe actually went back into the game after that play.
“People forget that after I got hit, I went back in the game the next series,” Bledsoe said. “And the reason why I came out of the game after that series was because I had a concussion as well, and I didn’t know which way was right and which way was left, and didn’t know my two-minute plays, which we had run for two years. I didn’t know I was seriously hurt until after the game.”
There is no way in today’s game that Bledsoe would have went back in the game. According to NFL.com, Bill Belichick believes Bledsoe should not have gone back into the game and reportedly regretted allowing his quarterback to do so afterward.
Bledsoe’s injury actually ended up being pretty severe and could have even been life-threatening under a different set of circumstances.
“They put me in the ambulance and I really don’t remember much of that drive in,” Bledsoe said. “But my brother, Adam, got in the ambulance with me, and they couldn’t give me anything for pain because I’m allergic to morphine. I don’t remember this, but my brother said as we were driving and were just approaching the outskirts of Boston, I just went lights out. I just passed out, just from lack of blood. And he thinks I’m dying and he’s screaming at the ambulance drivers to get there, get there, and the next thing I know, I wake up in the hospital, with a tube in my chest that was pumping blood out of my chest, and another tube putting it back in.
“I don’t think I really knew how serious everything was for a couple days afterward, but yeah, if our trainer hadn’t intervened — because I just wanted to go home — and if our team doctor hadn’t sent me to the hospital, things could have been really different.”
Brady recalled that the team didn’t even know how bad it was until well after the game as well.
“It wasn’t until mid-week when we knew the extent of what Drew was dealing with,” Brady said. “Again, I was just taking things as they came, and I tried to make the best of the situation, as it was tough for everybody, with somebody I respected so much, like I did Drew.”
Brady also reflected on what he was feeling coming into that game. He said, “Everything happened so fast and I think I was just reacting to the moment. I felt prepared, and really it felt like football. Like something I had done many times before.”
As we all know, the team moved on from Bledsoe and began their run as a dynasty. Brady took over as the starter and Bledsoe moved on to Buffalo to play for the Bills after the season.
But there was one last beaming moment for Bledsoe as a quarterback for the Patriots. It was when he came in the game for Brady during the AFC Championship Game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“It did feel good to come back and play in that AFC Championship Game,” Bledsoe said. “It did make the whole thing feel a bit better, to at least get back on the field during that run. The only hard part was that I tell people it was like giving a starving man a cracker. You just get a little taste of it, and then I had to go back on the sideline for the Super Bowl.”
These two players will forever be connected and leave analysts to wonder what if. What if Bledsoe didn’t get hurt? That’s a question we’ll never know the answer to.