Drew Bledsoe Injury: A Look Back at the QB’s Major Injury That Kicked Off Tom Brady’s Career

    Drew Bledsoe and Tom Brady are forever linked after Bledsoe's major injury early in the 2001 season jump-started Brady's legendary NFL career.

    Drew Bledsoe and Tom Brady will be forever linked due to the abrupt passing of the torch on the New England Patriots, as Brady took over the starting quarterback job. It all began with a gruesome injury that Bledsoe suffered early in the 2001 season, giving the relatively unheralded Brady an opportunity he made the most of on his way to a legendary career.

    How Drew Bledsoe’s Injury Sparked Tom Brady’s Career

    Bledsoe entered the NFL as a highly touted prospect out of Washington State, albeit perhaps a bit flawed with high interception totals.

    He threw for 2,770 yards, 18 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions during his final collegiate season in 1992. Evidently, he made a big enough impression on the organization and head coach Bill Parcells for them to spend the No. 1 overall pick in the 1993 NFL Draft on him.

    “I met 1-on-1 with Parcells, which was pretty interesting for a 20-year-old kid just sitting in a hotel room with Parcells, who was this major figure in professional sports,” Bledsoe told The Athletic.

    “I talked with him for a little bit. He had some pretty in-depth questions about football and things that I liked and what I felt I was good at, areas I felt like were weaknesses. That was a pretty crazy time being there with this Godfather figure who was larger than life, and I’m a 20-year-old kid from Walla Walla. It was a little crazy.”

    Bledsoe really took off professionally in his fourth season, 1996, throwing for 4,086 yards, 27 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions as he led New England to an appearance in Super Bowl 31. The Patriots ultimately fell 35-21 to Brett Favre’s Green Bay Packers as Bledsoe threw for 253 yards, two TDs, and four INTs.

    Bledsoe was unable to lead New England back to the Super Bowl in the coming years with two short playoff stints in 1997 and 1998 along with missing the playoffs in 1999 and 2000.

    Then came the now-infamous 2001 season. Bledsoe started the Patriots’ first two games of the campaign but went down with a gruesome injury during their Week 2 loss to the New York Jets. He took a hard hit from Jets linebacker Mo Lewis, suffering what was later revealed to be internal bleeding in his chest cavity along with a partial rib cage tear.

    “The chest cavity filled up with blood slowly and got worse,” Bledsoe said after being released from the hospital. “The lung never collapsed. So maybe the lung capacity diminished.”

    MORE: Drew Bledsoe’s Net Worth: How Much Did the 14-Year Veteran Earn?

    Bledsoe had a chest tube inserted between two ribs to remove blood from his chest cavity and was unable to do much physical activity for the next few weeks.

    However, he called Lewis’ hit clean, one that came along the sideline as Bledsoe strained for a few more yards while wrapped up by Jets defensive end Shaun Ellis.

    “Mo put a good hit on me, but it was a clean hit,” Bledsoe said.

    The injury left Bledsoe inactive for the Patriots’ next seven games, allowing Brady to grab hold of the starting quarterback job.

    It was Brady’s first meaningful spell of action after being selected in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL Draft, but he made the most of it and kept Bledsoe on the sidelines even after he was cleared to play later in the year.

    Bledsoe did make an extended appearance in New England’s 24-17 AFC Championship game win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, but it was Brady who led the 20-17 victory over the then-St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl 36.

    MORE: Drew Bledsoe on Pre-Roast ‘Tension’ Between Bill Belichick, Robert Kraft

    The rest is history as Brady remained the Patriots’ starting quarterback, and Bledsoe was traded to the Buffalo Bills ahead of the 2002 season for a 2003 first-round draft pick. Bledsoe spent three years in Buffalo before finishing his career with the Dallas Cowboys in 2005 and 2006.

    Bledsoe recently appeared in Netflix’s ‘The Greatest Roast of All Time’ and poked fun at his benching. The roast opened with former Patriots head coach Bill Belichick informing Bledsoe that this wasn’t his night, essentially benching him for Brady once again.

    Later, Bledsoe took the stage and had some hilarious barbs directed at Brady.

    KEEP READING: Best of The Roast of Tom Brady: Most Hilarious Moments

    Bledsoe’s brutal injury early in the 2001 season, though, forever altered his legacy and changed the future for himself, Brady, and the Patriots, paving the way for a historic dynasty.

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