FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) – Tom Brady and Doug Flutie didn’t play at all last week. Deuce McAllister just wishes he hadn’t.

The New England Patriots’ top two quarterbacks sat out the first exhibition game, apparently so coach Bill Belichick could hold tryouts for the No. 3 spot. Brady and Flutie will play for the first time this preseason on Thursday night against McAllister’s New Orleans Saints, who didn’t look good in their exhibition opener against Seattle.

“You don’t like to see your guys take the field without you because it makes you feel like, Man, maybe they really don’t need me out there. It’s kind of humbling in a sense,”‘ Brady said after practice this week.

“I like being out there taking the reps and making the plays. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to do that last weekend.”

A two-time Super Bowl MVP and feature subject in the current issue of GQ, Brady hasn’t been on the field during a game since leading the Patriots to a 24-21 victory over Philadelphia. It was their third NFL title in four years.

“I’m excited to get out there. It’s been a while since we played a game,” he said. “I feel good about where I’m at throwing the ball. Coach wants to get the other guys a look and, at the same time, it’s nice to get a few days off from throwing. It’s a long, long season.”

Flutie, who went to Boston College and lives in nearby Natick, returned to the Patriots this offseason to serve as Brady’s backup. But he hasn’t been out on the field for New England – not this season, at least.

“I don’t care how long you’ve played the game. You still need to prove it on the field,” said the 42-year-old Flutie, who also played for the Patriots in the late 1980s. “I want to go out, under fire with my teammates, and earn their respect.”

Rookie Matt Cassel and Rohan Davey, who’s in his fourth year with New England, took the snaps in Friday’s 23-13 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. Cassel was 13-for-21 for 135 yards and a touchdown, and he also scrambled for 46 yards; Davey was 4-for-7 for 42 yards and an interception.

“It’s hard to get four quarterbacks the amount of reps that are really productive,” Belichick said. “You know, we’ve got two players that really haven’t played any football at all for this organization and we’re going to have to make some kind of evaluation on where they are. And the only way to evaluate them is to see them play.”

The Saints opened with a 34-15 loss to Seattle in which they turned the ball over three times in the first half, leading to three Seahawks touchdowns. McAllister fumbled three plays in to set up the first Seattle touchdown.

“I didn’t play (well) the last game,” he said. “So, personally, I’m looking forward to it because it gives me an opportunity to get out there and get on the field again after the sorely disappointing game I had.”

Saints coach Jim Haslett said he would play his starters as much as three quarters, about twice as much as they played in the first game.

“It’s going to let us know where we are as a team. We’re going up against the defending world champs,” said running back Antowain Smith, who was with New England for its first two Super Bowl titles.

“They know what it takes to go out there and win. Right now we’re a young team. We’re trying to find out where we are, so we’ve got a great test.”



AP sports writer Brett Martel contributed to this story from New Orleans.

AP-ES-08-17-05 1750EDT


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