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Boomer talks trade

3-20-02, 5:30 p.m.


ORLANDO, Fla. _Boomer Esiason, the last Bengals starting quarterback involved in a trade, has been reading the reports that Drew Bledsoe could get dealt to his old team.

Or Buffalo. Or Denver. Or anywhere Tom Brady doesn't hold the heart of New England and the keys to the Patriots' offense.

So Esiason recalled Wednesday how lucky he was a decade ago that when he asked Mike Brown to trade him to either the Jets or the Raiders, the Bengals' boss sent him home to New York.

"No question Mike did me a solid," Esiason said. "But I was lucky those two teams were interested and he tried to take care of me. I'm sure (Patriots owner) Bob Kraft feels a certain way for Drew Bledsoe and has a very high regard for him and will try to trade him, assuming that's the place he wants to go. But I don't know how many teams are going to go after him. Hey, he might not have a lot of choice.'"

Esiason spoke over the phone Wednesday as the NFL owners broke from their annual meeting here next to Disney World and allowed that Bledsoe is no doubt suspended "in Never, Never Land." This was supposed to be the time and place where the Bledsoe trade talks were going to start up. But except for Buffalo's "exploratory," run, a Drew Deal remains more Magic Kingdom than EPCOT.

Bengals head coach Dick LeBeau told "The Boston Herald," here Wednesday that his team is interested in obtaining a quarterback, admires Bledsoe, and has contacted the Patriots about a possible trade. But Cincinnati officials indicated Wednesday night that the brief contact was made several days ago, the talks aren't on going, and don't look to get started up again.

The market for Bledsoe appears to be sleeping like Snow White, although Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden theorized it will be thriving in three weeks as Draft Day approaches. The Bengals continue to conduct business like a team that is not saving a $5 million pad under this year's salary cap to accommodate Bledsoe's 2002 number.

The market for Bledsoe appears to be sleeping like Snow White, although Raiders coach Jon Gruden theorized it will be thriving in three weeks as Draft Day approaches. The Bengals continue to no comment it and are conducting business like a team that is not saving a $5 million pad under this year's salary cap to accommodate Bledsoe's 2002 number.

But Esiason has also seen the reports hinting Bledsoe might not embrace the Bengals, which he doesn't think is wise for a strong-armed quarterback.

"Whatever the perception is about the Bengals, the fact is he can't ask for much more than that," Esiason said. "It's a great city to live in , they have a beautiful stadium, a Pro Bowl running back, a good defense. And they've got fast receivers that can run. You don't think they would get it down the field? Sometimes the perception isn't the reality."

The Bengals received a third-round draft pick in the 1993

draft (Arizona defensive lineman Ty Parten) for Esiason. At 32, he was heading into his 10th season. At 30, Bledsoe is heading into his 10th season. Both went on the market with a slew of 3,000-yard passing seasons and a runner-up Super Bowl appearance. While Esiason was caught in a sudden youth movement with players and coaches in Cincinnati, Bledsoe has been displaced by Brady's Super Bowl MVP trophy in Foxboro.

"Tom Brady deserves every consideration," Esiason said. "It's a very difficult relationship and I think that New England is trying to get the highest possible return. They probably have a higher opinion of Drew Bledsoe than most teams. The thing is how much a team is willing to give up to get him, because the contract really isn't that bad. He's already been paid the bonus."

What Bledsoe is worth and what the Pats will eventually get are two widely different things. The buzz of the meeting was not many teams are dying to give up something when they might be able to fill a need via free agency or the draft.

It's not like last year, when Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil had to have his guy in Trent Green and no one else and gave up the 12th pick in the draft to get him. It's not like 1999, when Norv Turner had to have Brad Johnson in Washington and gave up his first-, second-, and third-round choices.

Word is the Pats seek at least one first-round pick and possibly two, and Bengals President Mike Brown is already on record saying he's not inclined to trade the 10th pick. The lobby meeting consensus is the Pats will have to settle for a second-rounder.

And Esiason isn't sure Bledsoe is the answer for Cincinnati. Or if Trent Dilfer was. Or if Elvis Grbac is/was.

"I don't know why they went after Grbac again," Esiason said. "I don't see many Type A personalities out there. The perfect guy for them was (the Eagles') Donovan McNabb because not only has he got the talent, but he's such an outgoing guy."


THIS AND THAT:** Second-year defensive lineman Mario Monds is expected to undergo surgery for a torn anterior cruciate ligament Wednesday after ripping up his knee in Tampa, Fla., at the NFL Europe workouts.

Monds, a 325-pound run stuffer, had been slated to play for Barcelona. Jim Lippincott, the Bengals director of pro/college personnel, said Monds is most likely out until October and that the club won't give Barcelona another player to take Monds' spot. Monds, a University of Cincinnati product drafted in the sixth round by Washington last year, came to the Bengals just before the season on waivers and appeared in two games. . .

Bengals President Mike Brown and Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden seem to be on the same page when it comes to the infamous "Tuck Rule." Both have seen enough of the play and enough of the ways to try and rectify what happened in the AFC playoffs this past Jan. 19, when Gruden was coaching the Raiders in New England.

"I try not to think too much about it and become distraught," Gruden said Wednesday, a day after the

league decided to take more time to study the rule. That was after the NFL's Competition Committee grappled with it the week before and couldn't come up with a consensus fix.

As every New England school kid knows by now, Raiders cornerback Charles Woodson dislodged the ball from Patriots quarterback Tom Brady as he threw a pass with less than two minutes left in a game the Patriots trailed, 13-10. The Raiders recovered the loose ball, but because the officials correctly invoked the "Tuck Rule," after seeing Brady on instant replay try to pull the ball into his body, it was ruled an incomplete pass. The Pats went on to tie the game and win the Super Bowl two weeks later.

"They're going to do what they feel is best for the game," Gruden said. "I'm sure they analyzed it thoroughly and they did what they felt they had to do. I'm just glad they watched it for seven to 10 days and talked about the "Tuck Rule," and I didn't have to."

Gruden would like to see the rule abolished to avoid confusion. Brown also thinks the rule should be simplified, with no addition of "bright line," that some are advocating.

"I would change the rule, but not in the form they're talking about," Brown said. "To me, the quarterback is trying to throw the ball or not try to throw it. I don't think it has much to do with tucking. I think I know when he's trying to throw and when he isn't. It's a fumble when he isn't. It's incomplete when he is. That was a fumble. In my mind, setting up all kinds of guidelines isn't the answer."

As for Gruden, so much has happened since. He's now coaching down the road in Tampa Bay, but his last game as a Raider still haunts.

"I haven't seen (the play) lately," Gruden said. "The bottom line is that when you get on the plane, the game is over. How many times do you want to see that play? You have to get over it. You move on with life. It's a very tough interpretation for the officials and it went against a team I was on. The "Tuck Rule," is still being talked about and I'm sure it always will be. It's not my biggest concern right now."

Gruden is right about one thing. It will continue to be talked about. Particularly by the owners. Each team will be sent a video of the play so they can see it like the competition committee saw it and try to hammer something out at the May meeting in Houston.

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