Testaverde hopes this will be 'Super' chance
The Patriots' third-string quarterback never has played in the Super Bowl.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) -- The clock ticks down to zero, confetti falls, the Super Bowl trophy is hoisted overhead by some other quarterback and Vinny Testaverde clicks off the television.
"Every year I watch it and I think, 'It got away from me again,"' the New England Patriots' third-string QB said Thursday as he prepped for the AFC championship game against Indianapolis. "I've always been on the outside, looking in. I've always wondered what the players went through. I think I'd enjoy that experience."
Let others complain about the distractions and hype surrounding the Super Bowl. Testaverde would just like a chance to see what it's like after failing to make it to the NFL title game, so far, during an otherwise distinguished 20-year career.
A Heisman Trophy winner at Miami who was the first overall pick in the 1987 NFL draft, Testaverde is on his seventh stop with five franchises. At 43, he is resigned to the fact that he probably won't be barking out signals in a Super Bowl huddle, but he still has a chance to tag along as an emergency QB if the Patriots beat the Colts on Sunday.
"I came here knowing it would be an opportunity for me to win a championship, something I've never experienced," Testaverde said. "I've been fortunate enough to play this long, to be in position to do it again. It's exciting. This is what you live for.
"It'd be nice," he said. "It'd be nice."
His pro background
Testaverde played his first six years for the woeful Buccaneers and the next five for the Browns-turned-Ravens, making the playoffs only once -- in the 1994 season while playing for coach Bill Belichick in Cleveland. It was at his next stop, with the New York Jets, that Testaverde came closest to the Super Bowl.
After leading the Jets to their first AFC East title in 1998, he helped them to a 10-0 lead over Denver in the AFC championship game. But John Elway, in his final season, led the Broncos to a 23-10 victory and then to their second straight Super Bowl title.
"It was really tough," Testaverde said, swallowing hard, "to let it go then."
Testaverde tore his anterior cruciate ligament in the '99 opener -- against the Patriots -- and lost in the first round in 2001 in his final playoff appearance as a starter. After coming out of retirement when the Jets' Chad Pennington was hurt last year, Testaverde was out of the league again this season when Belichick, who had been working with two quarterbacks on the roster, asked if he wanted to be an insurance policy.
"We all knew what the situation was going to be. I knew I was the emergency guy," Testaverde said.
And he was OK with that.
"If I wasn't, I wouldn't be here to begin with," he said.
Played in four games
Although Belichick insisted at the time that the goal was to keep Testaverde off the field, the 43-year-old veteran appeared in four regular-season and playoff games. Three of them were kneel-down situations, but in the regular-season finale against Tennessee, Belichick gave him the chance to throw a touchdown pass that was meaningless except that it extended his record to 20 consecutive seasons with a scoring pass.
"That's the thing about Vinny," said No. 2 quarterback Matt Cassel. "He has so much respect in this locker room. You'd love to see him get a chance to do that at the end of his career. I hope I'm lucky enough to be around long enough to have that kind of success."
Testaverde doesn't just relieve starter Tom Brady in garbage time; he also helps out the other quarterbacks by sharing the accumulated wisdom of his career. The 24-year-old Cassel, who entered kindergarten about the same time Testaverde entered the NFL, likes the pointers but also enjoys the tales -- the smoking in the locker room, old-timer stuff -- of the early days.
"There's a number of stories he's told us that you just kind of go, 'Oh, my God,"' Cassel said.
In a way, Cassel has the most to lose from Testaverde's nostalgia tour. After all, unless Brady is hurt, those last-second kneels could be his only chance to get into Sunday's game.
But he won't complain if Testaverde is on the field at the end of the game again. Because if he is, it will probably mean the Patriots are running out the clock on their way to the Super Bowl.
"To see me taking a knee," Testaverde said with a broad smile, "that would be better for everybody."
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