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Old teammate is a backer

Johnson: Bledsoe still has a lot left

FOXBOROUGH -- Drew Bledsoe's play may have fallen off since his New England days, but he will always get a mulligan with friends like Patriots linebacker Ted Johnson.

"Drew deserves all of the success coming to him," said Johnson, whose team will face Bledsoe's Bills in 11 days, after the bye week. "He's just a quality human being, I have the utmost respect for him.

"I was fortunate enough to play with him for a long time, so you hate to see him struggle. I don't know how he's doing personally, but I know he has a strong foundation at home. He's got his work in perspective."

Johnson doesn't buy into the thinking that this might be Bledsoe's last hurrah.

"No way," Johnson said. "Drew has a lot of pride. He's an amazing competitor, a great leader, a prideful person, and his legacy means a lot to him. He wants to be remembered as a premier quarterback in this league. None of us, especially Drew, wants to leave on a down note. If his body lets him play, there's no doubt he has a lot left."

Johnson also doesn't buy the theory that Bledsoe needs the perfect team around him to make him better. Johnson pointed out that John Elway didn't win a championship until he was joined by Terrell Davis.

He feels his friend is far from done. A constant reminder to all of the Patriots is the 31-0 opening day loss to Bledsoe and the Bills last season. It is bound to be a motivational tool when they prepare for the Bills next week.

"It's never easy playing them up there," Johnson said. "I know all of us who have played with or against Drew know he's capable of making any throw on the field. You're not going to find a guy with a better arm playing quarterback in this league."

Welcome back
Count Ty Law among those happy to see Deion Sanders back in the NFL. "I think it's good for the game," Law said. "His presence alone brings excitement. If he can still play -- and it's obvious he still can -- why give up something that you love? He still has a passion to play and you know it's not financial. The reason why he's doing it is because he misses the game, misses the camaraderie, misses being Prime Time. You know, you can't be Prime Time if you're just talking about the game." In his opinion, said Law, "As the season progresses, he's going to get better. I just saw a couple of his moves on the punt returns and he can still run." . . . The injuries to receivers David Patten (hamstring) and Deion Branch (leg) don't appear serious. Patten never returned in the second half against Arizona, though no injury announcement was made . . . Kevin Faulk was lifting weights yesterday but was not in the locker room during the media session. He has been dealing with his mother's recent death and also has a knee injury. The Patriots have not been required to list the knee on the injury report the past two weeks, as Faulk has officially been out for "personal reasons" . . . Could the Patriots as a team average 4 yards per carry for the first time in 18 years? Through two games, they are averaging 4.3 yards. Corey Dillon is averaging 5.2 yards per carry . . . The Patriots watched film of the Arizona game yesterday. They'll practice today and tomorrow, then take off for a long weekend.

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