Sports Outside the Beltway

Drew Bledsoe Retires

Drew Bledsoe has announced his retirement after 14 seasons as a quarterback in the National Football League.

Rather than spend a 15th season standing on a sideline as a backup, quarterback Drew Bledsoe has decided to walk away from pro football. Bledsoe, 35, retires fifth in NFL history in pass attempts (6,717) and completions (3,839), seventh in passing yards (44,611), and 13th in touchdown passes (251).

The No. 1 overall selection in 1993 by the New England Patriots out of Washington State, Bledsoe spent his first nine seasons with the Patriots, the next three with the Buffalo Bills, and his last two with the Dallas Cowboys.

“I feel so fortunate, so honored, to have played this game that I love for so long, with so many great players, and in front of so many wonderful fans,” Bledsoe said in a statement released through his representatives at Athletes First. “I fulfilled a childhood dream the first time I stepped on an NFL field, and the league did not let me down one time. I retire with a smile on my face, in good health, and ready to spend autumns at my kids’ games instead of my own. I’m excited to start the next chapter of my life.”

A four-time Pro Bowler, Bledsoe backed up Tony Romo for the Cowboys’ final 11½ games last season and had no interest in continuing his career in that role. Cincinnati and Seattle are said to have had interest in Bledsoe as a backup to Carson Palmer and Matt Hasselbeck, respectively.

“This is something I’ve been thinking about for quite a while,” Bledsoe said last night from his home in Bend, Oregon. “I felt like this was the way I was going to go late in the season. I wanted to spend some time with it and not make a rash decision.”

Being benched at halftime of Dallas’ sixth game — the third time Bledsoe lost his starting job though the first time he’d been outright replaced during the season — did not rob Bledsoe of his confidence. He says he isn’t leaving the game because he feels he’s finished. As a matter of fact he says he feels as good as he did a decade ago. “The reason for the decision is not because I don’t want to play anymore,” he said. “The reason is there’s a lot of other stuff I’m excited about doing. The positives of retiring outweighed the positives of returning and my desire to still play.”

Bledsoe, who led New England to an appearance in Super Bowl XXXI and earned his lone championship ring with the Patriots in 2001, listed among his proudest accomplishments the respectable manner in which he carried himself on and off the field and the fact that he never literally had to be carried off the playing field.

“Looking back, I wish some things had gone differently,” Bledsoe said, “but throughout 14 years in a very high-profile position in some high-profile places that I represented myself and my family well in terms of how I conducted myself on the field and off.”

He had a near-great career at quarterback and certainly carried himself with dignity. I certainly wish his two years with the Cowboys had gone better but neither the play calling nor the offensive line played to his strengths.

I wouldn’t be terribly shocked to see him make a comeback if a team suddenly needed a starter during the season. But he’s a smart guy who’s saved his money and will be able to make a living off the field.

Interesting stat from Elias:

Drew Bledsoe, who announced his retirement on Wednesday, averaged 34.6 passes per game in his career, the highest average for any player in NFL history. Next-highest (minimum: 100 games): Dan Marino (34.5), Brett Favre (34.1).

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