Originally created 11/28/98

Bledsoe will wait one more day to practice



FOXBORO, Mass. -- Everywhere New England coach Pete Carroll went this week, he said people want to know about "the finger."

On Friday, Carroll said all interested parties had to wait another day to learn if the right index finger Drew Bledsoe fractured during Monday night's 26-23 win over Miami would be ready for Sunday's matchup against Doug Flutie and the Buffalo Bills.

"With a player of this magnitude, we'll use all the time we have," Carroll said on Friday morning. "We're going to wait and see, we don't know what it's going to be like. Any information that we have for a broken index finger and playing quarterback -- nobody has that one for us. There's every intention that, if possible, we are going to do it."

Bledsoe was injured when his finger hit Miami defensive tackle Shane Burton during the winning drive over the Dolphins. He had trouble gripping the ball after that, but still was 4-for-7 for 54 yards after being hurt.

His final pass was a 25-yard touchdown to Shawn Jefferson with 29 seconds left that won the game.

"I messed around a little today and then I'll try to do a little something tomorrow and see what happens," Bledsoe said. "But it probably will end up being more of a game-time decision, I think. I don't know when, in fact, we'll make the decision, but nothing's been decided yet."

If Bledsoe can't play, Scott Zolak, an eight-year veteran with just 181 career passes, and punter/quarterback Tom Tupa will be ready to get the call.

"Scott has had much of the work in practice up until now. In practice, he gets the majority of the work, so he's better prepared, but (Tom) Tupa could play," Carroll said. "In the back of my mind, both guys will play if Drew can't."

In eight NFL seasons, Tupa has had 13 starts at quarterback and completed 252 of 491 passes for 3,256 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Although Bledsoe didn't officially practice Friday, the team remained hopeful he will be ready for Sunday.

"If he wants to play, he'll play," receiver Tony Simmons said. "And he really wants to play. It'll be up to the coaches to decide. If he can play, we welcome it, because we need him.

"He was throwing some good passes. And he looked fine to me. You still want the edge all the time, but who knows, maybe Zolak will be the edge. We just don't know, because he hasn't played in a while."

New England rarely uses Zolak, its fourth-round draft choice from Maryland in 1991. There's no need to with a player like Bledsoe, who leads AFC quarterbacks in consecutive games played with 55.

Zolak has not started a game for the Patriots since October 1995 in Atlanta, when Bledsoe had a separated shoulder. He came off the bench just twice this season, on Oct. 11 and Nov. 8, completing 4-of-12 for 39 yards.

"I've been preparing like I'm going to be (starting)," Zolak said. "We'll know Sunday and go with it. If not, then I have got to go if something happened during the game."

"If (Bledsoe) does play, it'll be a gutsy performance," Zolak said. "That's a very important finger when you're throwing. But he's a tough kid."