NEW ORLEANS - With the controversy cleared up, the New England Patriots' quarterbacks made certain that they did not stir up another one.
A day after Patriots coach Bill Belichick named Tom Brady his Super Bowl XXXVI starter over Drew Bledsoe, the quarterbacks refused to cause any distractions for their team yesterday. Like they have all season, Brady was the gracious winner and Bledsoe remained the loyal backup.
"I know how bad he wants to play in this game and he's going to be ready to play," Brady said. "I think for himself and myself, it's about winning. Whether he's playing or I'm playing, that's the ultimate goal. And yes, I do feel for him because he wanted to play awfully bad in this game."
Belichick made his choice after reviewing practice tape and determining that Brady could play effectively on his sprained left ankle. The quarterbacks were informed of the decision Wednesday night in individual meetings with Belichick.
"Obviously, it's a disappointing situation," Bledsoe said. "Everybody would love to be playing in this game, and I would love to be playing in this game. But, as I've said all along, I'm just going to do whatever I can to help Tom and prepare him, and I'm also going to prepare myself to be ready to play if that opportunity comes up."
Brady, who won his last seven starts before injuring his ankle in the AFC championship game, indicated that his ankle had some swelling after practice and that he will wear a protective brace to stabilize his ankle.
He was unsure whether he will take a painkilling shot before the game.
"It's sore and a little tender," Brady said. "But I think there's a lot of body parts of mine that are sore."
Bledsoe, who was the losing quarterback in the Super Bowl here five years ago, admitted that leading the Patriots to victory against the Steelers made not starting against the Rams more difficult.
"Just standing on the sidelines watching this whole thing unfold, you're happy to be a part of it, but it's a little empty," said Bledsoe, who refused to speculate about his future in New England. "It feels like you're just along for the ride."
On the other side, Brady is ecstatic about being in the driver's seat.
"It's really a dream come true to be the quarterback and start a Super Bowl," Brady said. "It's probably the highlight of my life."