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Brunell, Bledsoe linked


Mark Brunell can't help but wonder if he isn't headed for the same fate. Would it be such a bad thing if he is?

"I'd be lying if I said it didn't cross my mind," Brunell said when it was suggested he might be headed on the same career route as Drew Bledsoe; new town, new team. "It worked out great for Drew," Brunell said.

Brunell and Bledsoe, two veteran quarterbacks linked by their college football roots and, possibly, by their late-career fates, will face each other this Sunday for the fourth time since they were college rivals at Washington and Washington State.

"I did a bad job on purpose," Brunell said of a time when he played host to Bledsoe on a recruiting visit to Washington. "Sat in the hotel room, no room service, no dinner," Brunell joked.

That chased Bledsoe to Washington State, from where Bledsoe was made the first overall choice of the 1993 NFL draft. Four seasons later, Brunell and Bledsoe met in the 1996 AFC title game.

Two seasons ago, Bledsoe lost his job in New England to Tom Brady who, while Bledsoe was injured, began a winning streak that helped carry the Patriots to the Super Bowl title. And that sent Bledsoe to Buffalo in a trade that has revived Beldsoe's career.

He is the star of a Buffalo team that comes to Jacksonville this weekend following a 31-0 thrashing of Bledsoe's old mates, Brady and the Patriots. How could Brunell not look at Bledsoe with wonder, since Brunell is almost certain to be looking for a new team following this season?

But, for now, Brunell remains the Jaguars' starting quarterback; the most important player on this team, as evidenced by his 23 of 27 for 272 yards and two touchdowns in the Jaguars' 24-23, come-from-ahead loss in Carolina.

Brunell was at his best; a 133.3 passer rating. He proved he still has what it takes to be a starting quarterback, which is what Bledsoe did last season in Buffalo.

Meanwhile, Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio is concerned about more than Brunell and his future beyond this year. Del Rio is taking care that his special teams don't turn in another dismal performance, as they did last Sunday.

"We've had a good couple of days working on things that were problems. We've made the corrections and we're moving on," Del Rio told reporters today.

For the first time in the Jaguars' nine-year history, the team's home-opener will be blacked out to local TV. Ticket sales has become the most major of issues with this franchise, and Del Rio wants to be sure his team gives its fans what they want this Sunday.

"Part of that has to do with putting a product on the field they like," Del Rio said of energizing fans to support the team vocally. "We'd like to think we're going to put a product out there they'll be proud of."

The Bills will be coming from cool, late-summer conditions into what is expected to be a hot and steamy day at Alltel Stadium, and Del Rio agreed it can be a major advantage for the Jaguars, "but you have to go out and make it a factor," he said.

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