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Bills decide to take a pass on keeping Bledsoe

Just as the Patriots paved the way for the Tom Brady era by trading quarterback Drew Bledsoe to the Bills after the 2001 season, Buffalo is prepared to pave the way for the J.P. Losman era -- and again Bledsoe is the odd man out.

Buffalo coach Mike Mularkey announced yesterday that the team will release the 12-year veteran Tuesday, the first day teams can officially release players.

Bledsoe's next stop?

There has been rampant speculation that he could be reunited with Bill Parcells, his former coach in New England, in Dallas.

Parcells turned to one of his former quarterbacks, Vinny Testaverde (who played for Parcells in New York), to lead the Cowboys' offense last season, but coming off a 6-10 season, Parcells needs a younger quarterback to lead him back to the playoffs and act as a bridge to Drew Henson. But with a few veterans (including Brad Johnson, Brian Griese, Jeff Garcia, and Kurt Warner) likely to become available, Parcells has options.

"Dallas is intriguing, playing for my old coach and the weapons they have, but there are a number of teams with possibilities," Bledsoe said via conference call yesterday. "That would be an interesting option, no question."

Bledsoe, 33, who started all 48 games he played for the Bills, expressed shock and anger at the phone call he received from Mularkey last week informing him the team had decided to go with Losman. Bledsoe told Mularkey he could not return as Losman's backup.

"I guess I really didn't see it [coming] after what we accomplished starting 0-4 and finishing the way we did [9-7]," Bledsoe said. "I was shocked when I had the first conversation with Mike when he was saying he was going to try to make a decision. It was a shock to me. When I talked to Mike a week ago and he told me it was J.P., it really surprised me.

"There are always metaphors for life you can find in sports. If you're looking for life and football to be fair, you're going to be disappointed."

Asked whether he thought the Bills' decision was fair, he said, "No, I don't think it's fair. But I'm aware that's how it works. I understand it. There's no doubt that I feel the best option for the Bills to go forward is with me. But the organization didn't agree with that. I completely disagree and can't understand their point of view, but that's what they're going to do."

Said Mularkey, "We had a good year last year. It was not a super year. You're constantly trying to grow. With that comes change. It was a tough decision just out of respect for Drew and J.P." Bledsoe said he had to do some soul-searching to see whether he was up for starting with his seventh offensive coordinator in 10 years.

"Probably for 12 hours or so, is when I did soul-searching . . . if I had the energy to get after it again," he said. "But as I started to look at teams out there, I started to get excited about it. It's cool to be 33 years old and play a game for a living."

Mularkey said the Bills came to the decision last week. They had given up a No. 1 draft pick for Losman, who broke his leg early last season.

"In New England I was the first pick in the draft," Bledsoe said. "If they're going to trade away picks, they're going to try to get him on the field. That's obvious. Had the Pittsburgh game turned out different [a 29-24 loss in the season finale] and we'd won a playoff game or two, I don't know what would have happened . . . it might have played out differently."

Mularkey and Bills general manager Tom Donahoe seemed genuinely appreciative of Bledsoe's 23-25 tenure with the team. Donahoe has taken heat for his trade with the Patriots not working out as he had planned. Buffalo gave up a first-round draft pick.

"When Drew came here we were in a big, black hole and he helped us get out of that," Donahoe said. "He brought respectability and credibility to the football team. I learned a lot being around Drew -- the way he dealt with adversity and criticism and I appreciate what we did with him. Hopefully, he'll be successful. I never felt Drew felt he would be comfortable coming back here as a backup quarterback."

Bledsoe, who threw for 2,932 yards and 20 touchdowns with 16 interceptions last season, echoed those words yesterday.

"Backing up anybody is something I don't foresee for me," said Bledsoe. "I don't see myself ever being a backup, particularly for J.P. If it comes to that, I'll tip my hat and head back here to the Northwest."

With the move, the Bills will save about $2.2 million toward their salary cap. Bledsoe was scheduled to earn $4.3 million, with a $1.05 million roster bonus due next month.

Bledsoe wanted reporters to make sure they quoted him about his appreciation for Bills fans. He said that other than in Green Bay, he doesn't believe there's more fan loyalty anyplace else.

"It's a sad day for me," Bledsoe said. "I came to Buffalo with the intention of being a part of an organization and winning a world championship, and I didn't get that accomplished. I won't have a chance to. It's a sad day for me because of that."

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