QB hopes Flutie will return to Patriots

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) – Tom Brady wants Doug Flutie to return for a second season as his backup. Like plenty of Patriots and Flutie fans, he’s still waiting for the 43-year-old quarterback’s decision.

Flutie is considering retirement after a career that includes a Heisman Trophy from Boston College, three pro football leagues and his status as a hometown icon who started in the Boston suburbs at Natick High School.

“I love Doug and Doug’s just an awesome guy so I would love for him to be here,” Brady said Thursday. “He adds an awful lot so I don’t know how that’s going to work out.”

Flutie, who has been a hero in New England since his heroics for Boston College more than 20 years won him a Heisman Trophy, has said he does not want to play anywhere else. Last season, Flutie was the No. 2 quarterback for New England but played sparingly in five games, completing 5 of 10 passes. No. 3 quarterback Matt Cassel, a seventh-round draft pick last year from Southern California, is the only other quarterback on the Patriots who was with the team last year.

“My role is to play quarterback and it’s not to make personnel decisions,” Brady said. “I think coach (Bill) Belichick knows how I feel about each player on the team.”

Flutie’s agent, Kristin Kuliga, said Monday she thought Flutie’s decision probably would be made this week.

The Patriots already have lost three players who had much bigger roles than Flutie. Kicker Adam Vinatieri, linebacker Willie McGinest and wide receiver David Givens all left as free agents after the Patriots lost to Denver 27-13 in their second playoff game last season.

“We’ve lost a lot. There’s a lot of value in those guys,” Brady said in his first news conference since that loss. “It’s obviously tough. You’re sitting there at home and it’s the offseason and you see other guys getting signed other places and you’re kind of looking in and you see some of your core guys getting taken away.”

The Patriots moved more slowly than other teams in signing free agents. They added receiver Reche Caldwell from San Diego and former Tampa Bay kicker Martin Gramatica.

“Hopefully, we find other players to come in and take some of the burden off the guys that are still here,” said Brady, who knows he may have to adopt more of a leadership role. “As much as you’d love to keep everybody, when you have success, people are going to go out and say, “let’s go get that guy.’ Who wouldn’t want David Givens? Who wouldn’t want Willie? Who wouldn’t want Adam?”

McGinest and Vinatieri played on all three Super Bowl-winning Patriots teams over the past five seasons. Givens was on two of them. New England’s chance for an unprecedented third straight title ended last season in Denver.

The Patriots did add running back Laurence Maroney from Minnesota and wide receiver Chad Jackson from Florida in the first two rounds of last weekend’s draft.. But Brady cautioned against expecting too much from rookies.

“To expect Chad Jackson to be David Givens, I don’t think that’s fair to Chad. David’s an awesome player,” Brady said.

Maroney could share playing time with Corey Dillon.

“My dad calls me,” Brady said. “He’s like, “can you believe this? We got all these great players.’ I said, “Dad, Dad, these guys are rookies. These guys have a lot to learn.’ “

Deion Branch returns as one starting wide receiver. Caldwell, who has been working out with Brady for about a month, could be the other.

Brady, a three-time Super Bowl winner, has been working out regularly at Gillette Stadium and said, “I feel great. There’s no restrictions” on his exercise routines.

“I don’t ever feel like I’m obligated to be here” for offseason workouts, he said. “I feel it’s part of my responsibility.”

Brady prefers to look ahead rather than back to the loss in Denver in which the Patriots had five turnovers. One of them was Champ Bailey’s 103-yard interception return that led to a touchdown and a 17-6 Broncos lead.

Brady recently watched television before going to sleep and saw his last news conference before that game in which he watched himself answering a question about Bailey.

“I said “every time I throw over there I’m really going to make sure that I’m careful when I throw in his direction,’ ” Brady said with a laugh. “Sure enough, Champ, 103 yards, that’s going to sit with me for a long time.”

Until, perhaps, he wins another Super Bowl.

“Every time I sign an autograph on one of those Super Bowl pictures, it’s like, “we’re going to get back there,’ ” Brady said. “There’s nothing that matches that.”

AP-ES-05-04-06 1554EDT

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