IRVING, Texas (AP) – Drew Bledsoe knew his interception near the goal line just before halftime was a horrible play. He never thought it might be the last pass he’d throw for the Dallas Cowboys.
Bledsoe’s demotion became official Wednesday when Bill Parcells said Tony Romo, who took over at quarterback in the second half Monday night, will make his first career start Sunday night at Carolina.
“It’s a very, very disappointing situation for me, but I can’t go back and change it,” said Bledsoe, in his 14th season. “Obviously, I would like to be the guy still, and I really in my heart of hearts believe that I give us the best chance to win.”
Parcells doesn’t think so anymore, and is doing something he rarely has done _ changing quarterbacks in midseason. The coach often has been loyal to veteran quarterbacks, including 41-year-old Vinny Testaverde through a 6-10 Cowboys season two years ago.
But, this time, Parcells is benching the player he drafted No. 1 for the New England Patriots in 1993.
Bledsoe’s critical interception in a 36-22 loss to the New York Giants came when the Cowboys (3-3) had a chance to take the lead in a game to determine first place in the NFC East. Bledsoe already had been sacked four times, once for a safety.
Romo threw three interceptions, one on his first play and another returned 96 yards for a touchdown. But he still showed he could be effective. Romo scrambled and completed 14 of 25 passes for 227 yards and two touchdowns, and flashed more footwork running for a 2-point conversion.
“Deep down, I feel like Tony is a different kind of quarterback than Bledsoe,” Parcells said. “And, maybe, we might be able to put some of those abilities to work. … Maybe we can alter our circumstances for the better.”
A fourth-year pro undrafted out of Division I-AA Eastern Illinois, Romo never had thrown a pass before this season. His only two passes before Monday were a pair of completions in the previous game, with a TD to Terrell Owens in the closing minutes of a 34-6 victory over the Houston Texans.
Romo will be the ninth starting quarterback for the Cowboys since Hall of Famer Troy Aikman retired after the 2001 season. Romo didn’t appear in the locker room Wednesday.
“Any time you do something like this, it’s not without a lot of consideration,” Parcells said. “I’ve been thinking about it for some time. … Hopefully, maybe as the team is comprised right now, he might be able to do a couple of things that assist us.”
In Dallas’ three victories, Bledsoe had six touchdown passes and one interception. But those have all been against teams with losing records. Against playoff contenders Jacksonville, Philadelphia and the Giants, he has one TD and seven INTs.
Parcells told Bledsoe about his demotion during a 30-minute meeting Wednesday morning.
“It’s not the way I would like to see it done, but Bill was honest with me and sat down and we had a conversation about it,” said Bledsoe, who has started 193 NFL games. “I’m preparing this week as if I could be back on the field right away. Whether I see the field again, I don’t know.”
Bledsoe has hinted that Dallas _ and his reunion with Parcells that began last season _ will be his last NFL stop. He showed no interest in New England or Buffalo of being a mentor or an insurance policy.
“I’m sure he doesn’t want to back up, but that doesn’t mean you’re jumping off the ship,” Parcells said.
Bledsoe insisted Wednesday that he didn’t consider walking away because of the demotion. He also said he would “do the right thing” for the rest of this season. The 34-year-old didn’t say if this would be his final season.