The last time the Raiders faced quarterback Drew Bledsoe, at least the playing version, came in 1994 when the team was still in Los Angeles.
The New England Patriots, Bledsoe's former team, fell to the Raiders 21-17 that day. Oakland faces Bledsoe in a different AFC Eastern division uniform, the Buffalo Bills, Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Buffalo acquired Bledsoe, who spent last season as Tom Brady's backup after missing most of the year with a chest injury, from New England in a draft day trade. Bledsoe did not play when Oakland and New England played in the infamous playoff game that involved the "Tuck Rule," which the Pats won 16-13 in overtime.
Buffalo acquired Bledsoe to inject life in a downtrodden club that went 3-13 last season. After going through seasons of Todd Collins, Alex Van Pelt, Doug Flutie and Rob Johnson at quarterback, even a fading Bledsoe looked like a cult hero.
Bledsoe, however, has done anything but fade. The 30-year old Bledsoe has experienced a revival in his brief four-game career with the Bills (2-2). Whether Buffalo is a serious contender in its division remains to be seen but since Bledsoe has come aboard, having the Bills on your schedule is no longer equivalent of having a bye week.
Bledsoe has complete 116-of-165 passes for 1,345 yards, 10 touchdowns and two interceptions. Both of the Bills' victories have come in overtime.
"Drew Bledsoe has changed that football team," Raiders' outside linebacker Bill Romanowski said. "He's given them the ability to throw downfield. The guys believe in him."
The Patriots decided that keeping Bledsoe's multi-million dollar salary to back up Brady was simply too much to have. Bledsoe handled his backup role in conjunction with watching Brady lead the club to a Super Bowl win over St. Louis, 20-17, like a good soldier but was clearly not ready to spend the rest of his career as a backup.
Oakland quarterback Rich Gannon can relate to that situation. Gannon spent his career bouncing from Minnesota, Washington, and Kansas City as an occasional starter. The Raiders then signed Gannon to a free agent contract and named him the undisputed starter. Gannon has since enjoyed three outstanding years in Silver & Black and is on his way to a fourth.
"Drew handled the situation like the pro that he is," Gannon said. "He has played at a high level for a number of years. He's brought a renewed sense of confidence to that team."