Bledsoe's status uncertain for Sunday Patriots QB is ailing with separated shoulder


FOXBORO, Mass. -- The New England Patriots' bye week may have helped them as a whole, but it didn't do much for their uncertain quarterback situation. The problem remains Drew Bledsoe's separated left shoulder.

Bledsoe was in Birmingham, Ala., yesterday having a series of tests done by renowned orthopedics expert Dr. James Andrews, sources said.

Bledsoe's agent, Leigh Steinberg, wanted his $42 million quarterback to be examined by Andrews. There is concern that Bledsoe has a third-degree separation, the worst kind. He will be at practice today in Foxboro. A decision on whether he will play Sunday at Atlanta -- something that appears to be more and more doubtful -- will be made later this week.

He apparently will not have surgery, because the standard procedure for any shoulder separation does not include surgery.

Patriots spokesman Don Lowery would not confirm the reports of Bledsoe being in Birmingham, but he said if Bledsoe was there, he was not sent by the team.

Bledsoe's shoulder was driven into the ground a week ago Sunday when he was sacked by San Francisco linebacker Ken Norton Jr. Since that time, Bledsoe has not practiced. Last Monday he had a magnetic resonance imaging done in the Boston area. On Thursday he was wearing a protective sling on his left arm and shoulder.

If Bledsoe cannot practice this week, the starting job will go to Scott Zolak, the fifth-year quarterback out of Maryland. Zolak started four times in 1992 but has attempted only 10 passes in three seasons since then.

The other quarterback on the roster is rookie Jay Barker, who has not been activated from the practice squad. The team has until 4 p.m. Saturday to activate Barker or sign a veteran.

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