Super Bowl QB decision comes Wednesday

Jan. 28, 2002 at 11:43 PM
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NEW ORLEANS, Jan. 28 (UPI) -- New England Coach Bill Belichick said on his arrival at the site of Super Bowl XXXVI Monday that it would be another 48 hours before he would decide on who would start at quarterback against the St. Louis Rams.

As Super Bowl week got underway, the question of whether it would be Tom Brady or Drew Bledsoe at quarterback was No. 1 on the agenda.

The first seven questions Belichick was asked at his arrival news conference Monday dealt with the quarterback situation. Brady left Sunday's AFC Championship game in the second quarter with an injured left ankle and Bledsoe, who had not played in four months, came on and helped the Patriots to their upset win over Pittsburgh.

Brady replaced an injured Bledsoe in the second week of the season and had started every game since.

"I'll make the announcement about the starting quarterback after practice on Wednesday," Belichick said. "I'm just not in a position to do it right now. There are a number of things that are involved. I will just wait until Wednesday to try to clear it up."

Belichick admitted Monday that Brady could have returned in the second half of Sunday's game, but that he chose to stay with Bledsoe, who threw a touchdown pass on his fourth play of the game to give the Patriots a 14-3 lead.

"That's a tough decision that I'm glad I don't have to make," Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi said. "Tom's getting treatment on (the ankle), keeping it raised on the plane and on the buses and doing the best he can to get back. I told him, I said, `Tom, whatever guy is in there, Drew or you, we feel confident that we can win the game.'"

Whether it's Brady or Bledsoe, the Patriots have been listed as 14-point underdogs against the explosive Rams. The San Francisco 49ers were the biggest Super Bowl favorite at 19 points when they routed the San Diego Chargers, 49-26, in 1994.

While most of the early talk centered around Brady's ankle, there was still the questions surrounding the sore ribs of St. Louis quarterback Kurt Warner.

Warner received a pain-killing injection prior to the Rams' victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. He threw for 212 yards and a touchdown against Philadelphia, but St. Louis Coach Mike Martz turned that game over to running back Marshall Faulk in the second half.

"I didn't get banged up too much in the game, although the ribs will probably be sore for a couple of more days," said Warner, who was sacked just once by Philadelphia. "I think I'll almost be back to 100 percent by Sunday, so it really shouldn't be a concern."

Martz received some good news Monday on the status of offensive lineman Orlando Pace, a Pro Bowler who suffered a strained right MCL in the first half of the NFC championship game but played through it.

"I talked to the doctors and Orlando is much better than what I anticipated," Martz said. "I was really concerned about him and am very pleased that he doesn't have the serious knee strain that I was afraid of. We should have him for practice."

The teams settled in after their arrival Monday to prepare for the first big event of the week on Tuesday -- a meeting with the media in the Superdome. Additional news conferences are scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday amidst the most intense security in Super Bowl history.

A barrier fence has been built all around the stadium at a distance of close to two blocks away. No one will be allowed through that fence except those who have a ticket to the game or are credentialed to conduct business associated with the contest.

No vehicular traffic will be allowed inside the fence, either, meaning all those in attendance will have to walk at least some distance to get to the stadium.

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