FOXBORO, Mass. (AP)- Half his lifetime ago, Doug Flutie was the local star who rode his strong arm and shifty feet to national greatness as the Heisman Trophy winner.

He’s still playing quarterback in his own backyard – the wise old man for the Super Bowl champions who will be wearing the uniform of the New England Patriots in their exhibition opener Friday night in Cincinnati.

But, at age 42, the Boston College legend is more focused on fitting in with his new team than on where the team is located.

The hometown connection might be important for local fans, Flutie said, but “to me, it’s the first chance to play with a new team … like my first opportunity to play preseason games with San Diego or Buffalo when I went there.

“I have to keep that perspective on it. For me, it’s an opportunity to get out there, get comfortable with a new group of guys in a game situation and, hopefully, have some success.”

Flutie signed with the Patriots as a free agent last April 29 after four seasons in San Diego. He knows his role – backup to Tom Brady with the knowledge of two decades in pro football to help the two-time Super Bowl MVP.

He’s comfortable with the Patriots offense and said the best case scenario for him would be to “watch Tom Brady take every snap and (have the Patriots) do the things this team’s been doing.”

There are two other quarterbacks in camp – fourth-year pro Rohan Davey and rookie Matt Cassel, a seventh-round draft choice. But neither can read a defense or direct receivers like Flutie.

“He’s just got so much wealth of knowledge,” tight end Christian Fauria said. “It’s little things. It’s not just the obvious stuff.”

“The guy just knows the game. He’s been around so long,” said wide receiver Deion Branch, the MVP of this year’s Super Bowl. “When he started, I was like 5, so it’s crazy. It’s just great to have him around, a good guy.”

Flutie won the Heisman Trophy in 1984 and is entering his 12th NFL season. He began his pro career in the USFL in 1985 then played in the Canadian Football League from 1990 through 1997, where he was named the Most Outstanding Player four times.

He started in the NFL with Chicago in 1986 and was traded the next year to New England, where he stayed through 1989. He returned to the NFL with Buffalo from 1997 through 1999, then played in all 16 games for the only time in 2000 with San Diego. He appeared in 10 games the past three seasons, primarily as a backup to Drew Brees.

“Drew and I are good friends and he’s a heck of a quarterback,” Flutie said. “He made a real statement last year in the way he played, and I was very happy for him.”

Brees threw for 27 touchdowns and seven interceptions and made the Pro Bowl. Flutie played in two games, completing 20 of 38 passes for one touchdown and no interceptions.

But after all the cities he’s been in and passes he’s thrown, one question remains. At just under 5-feet-10, is his height a hindrance in throwing over tall linemen?

Coach Bill Belichick thinks not. One of Flutie’s strengths, he said, is moving quickly so he can throw between linemen. And “for his age, he is a remarkable athlete,” Belichick said.

“Even (quarterbacks) who are 6-3, 6-4, it’s still had to see over other guys who are 6-3 or 6-4,” Belichick said. “Even if you could see over them, throwing over them is another problem.”

Flutie managed to connect with a receiver even shorter than him, Tim Dwight, who caught 25 passes at San Diego in Flutie’s year as a full-time starter in 2001. Dwight also joined the Patriots as a free agent after four years with the Chargers.

“It’s nice to be around a guy like that because he makes you play at a certain level and he expects things out of you,” Dwight said. “I can see he and Tom have a lot of parallels like that.”

Brady, though, is the leader of the offense. Flutie is just trying to master the offense so he can help.

“You’re not crazy about changing jobs at age 42,” he said. “It’s work, but it also motivates you. It puts your head back into it, in the classroom and on the field.”

AP-ES-08-11-05 1831EDT


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