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Pats to decide QB Wednesday

Posted: Tuesday, January 29, 2002

NEW ORLEANS -- Nothing like a great quarterback debate to get Super Bowl week off to a hot start. And nothing like a coach seasoned in the art of evasion to draw out the drama a few more days.

Tom Brady or Drew Bledsoe?

New England coach Bill Belichick wasn't saying Monday at a brief news conference to mark his arrival in New Orleans. All he promised was an answer by the end of practice Wednesday.

The rest of the 20-minute Q&A session was an exercise in futility.

Ten times, reporters tried to ask, trick or cajole Belichick into an answer about the quarterbacks. Each time, the veteran coach -- straight from the Bill Parcells school of information distribution -- dodged and parried the questions, using just about every tactic short of pleading the Fifth Amendment.

''I'm sure a lot of people want more information than I'm able to give you right now,'' Belichick said.

The coach did reveal that Brady would have been healthy enough to return after his second-quarter injury in the 24-17 victory over the Steelers on Sunday.

Brady walked off the airplane Monday showing no signs of injury.

Was the injury serious enough to warrant an MRI?

''Not that I'm aware of,'' Belichick said.

How was the quarterback feeling Monday?

''We're not even 24 hours after the game, so it's too early to comment on that,'' he said.

Can you go into detail about the injury?

''Well, not really. He has a sprained ankle,'' Belichick replied.

At one point, Belichick sounded as though he had already made a decision.

''I said I'd announce a decision Wednesday, but I didn't say I'd make it Wednesday,'' he said. ''That's really the best I can do.''

Pushed on that answer, he conceded he hadn't yet made up his mind.

''Look fellas, I'm not trying to keep anything from anybody,'' he said. ''I'm really not. If I could tell you something, and say I'm 100 percent, I'd tell you that. You can ask the question 50 different ways. I'll announce it on Wednesday. That's the best I can do right now.''

Of course, no Super Bowl would be complete without second guessing, and once the decision comes down, Belichick will get his share.

If he chooses Brady, he turns his back on the $103 million quarterback who never made waves when he lost his job to injury, then came off the bench to rescue the team in its most important game.

If he chooses Bledsoe, he discounts Brady's contribution in 16 starts this season, and goes with a quarterback who hasn't started a game since September.

Receiver Troy Brown played it down the middle, when asked over and over who he thought should start.

''It shouldn't matter who's out there,'' he said. ''We've still got to go out and win a game.''

Expect more of that Tuesday at media day, where Bledsoe, Brady, Belichick and the rest will all be available for extensive interviews, but probably won't offer up much more.

''I don't think anyone cares right now who it is,'' Brown said. ''We're happy we're here. We're here to do a job. We don't have any other choice than to be confident in whoever he picks.''



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