Veteran QB appeared ready to catch on with Giants
Suddenly in demand after almost two months of pondering his professional future, Doug Flutie is back in the NFL again. But not with the team that appeared likely to sign him only a day ago.
Noted as much for his elusiveness as for his passing prowess, Flutie used the former of those skills Friday, seemingly scrambling out of the clutches of the New York Giants and instead landing with the New England Patriots. A native of Natick, Mass., and the 1984 Heisman Trophy winner at Boston College, the 11-year veteran quarterback signed a one-year contract with the two-time defending Super Bowl champions.
"I'm very excited about being back in New England, being home and being a part of a great football team," the 42-year-old Massachusetts native said in a conference call Friday night. "This is a fresh start."
The addition of Flutie is not completely surprising. There were rumors since his March 13 release by the San Diego Chargers that the Patriots might be interested in him. After Tom Brady, the only other quarterbacks on coach Bill Belichick's depth chart -- three-year veteran Rohan Davey, four-year veteran Chris Redman and rookie Matt Cassel -- have combined for only six regular-season starts.
Davey has yet to start a game. Redman, who is rehabilitating from shoulder surgery, did not play at all last season and has thrown just 13 passes in the last two. Cassel, one of New England's seventh-round picks in the draft last weekend, logged only 33 attempts in four seasons at Southern California.
So Flutie, who played the last four seasons in San Diego, certainly provides the Patriots with more insurance behind Brady than the team has enjoyed the last few seasons.
"I'm excited about working with Tom. Hopefully I can be a sounding board for him -- be there and help him out -- and be a security blanket for the team," Flutie said. "The role that I'm fulfilling is that of a veteran quarterback. My role may be in the classroom, that may be my biggest contribution; it may not be on the field. If I am on the field, I feel like they have confidence in me."
What is somewhat surprising, though, is where Flutie is resuming his career, since it appeared that he was poised to sign with the Giants. On Thursday, he worked out for Giants coaches and team officials, who, ESPN.com has learned, are now seeking a replacement for scheduled No. 2 quarterback Jim Miller. The 10-year veteran underwent Wednesday surgery to repair a torn hip labrum, a procedure that might keep the star-crossed veteran out for three-four months.
It is not yet known if the Giants made Flutie a formal contract offer. Had he signed with New York, he would have been reunited with Tom Coughlin. The Giants coach was offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Boston College when Flutie starred there in the early-1980s.
In 11 NFL seasons, Flutie has appeared in 86 games and completed 1,172 of 2,141 passes for 14,686 yards, with 86 touchdown passes and 68 interceptions. He started all 16 games in 2001 but has appeared in just 10 games in the last three seasons.
With Flutie out of the picture, the Giants' options are further limited. They might take a more patient approach with Miller and see how his rehabilitation progresses, hoping perhaps that he might be recovered by the beginning of the regular season. Or the Giants might pursue one of the few other veteran quarterbacks who have not lined up jobs for the coming season, among them Vinny Testaverde, Jeff Blake, Kordell Stewart, Quincy Carter, Jeff George and Shaun King.
Earlier in the day it was believed that Miller's surgery would likely force the Giants to place him on injured reserve or pursue an injury settlement. A decision on Miller's future with the Giants probably will be made next week.
With Miller probably scratched now as the backup and tutor to second-year veteran Eli Manning, the door was certainly open for Flutie's return to the league. He chose a different one.
Clearly, the Giants prefer a veteran presence behind Manning, who will enter his first training camp as the full-time starter. The other quarterbacks on the roster, Jesse Palmer and Jared Lorenzen, don't have much experience.
When the Giants signed Miller to a one-year, $790,000 contract in early March, it seemed like a great fit for both.
Miller, 34, hasn't thrown a pass in the last two seasons, including a stint in New England in 2004 in which he was the No. 3 "emergency" quarterback for all 16 games. In terms of serving as mentor to Manning, however, and lending a veteran presence to the Giants depth chart, he figured to be an excellent addition. He certainly possessed the demeanor and lack of ego the Giants need in their No. 2 quarterback.
Miller has battled shoulder and ankle injuries the past two years and has not appeared in a game since midway through the 2002 season with the Chicago Bears. He signed with Tampa Bay in 2003 but was released when his rehab lingered well into camp, then signed with New England last summer.
Last week, Miller began to experience back pain and an examination revealed the torn hip labrum.
Miller has started in 27 of his 37 career appearances, and completed 610 of 1,047 passes for 6,387 yards, with 36 touchdown passes and 31 interceptions. His best season came in 2001, when he started 13 games and led the Bears to a division title.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here . Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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