FOXBOROUGH — The veteran quarterback ran up the sideline back in his own territory, took a hard shot from the linebacker and went down.
He stayed in the game but couldn’t finish it and lost his starting job. The career of the player born in Washington state and chosen with the top pick in the NFL draft would never be the same.
No, not Alex Smith.
Try Drew Bledsoe.
On Sunday night, the pros who replaced veteran standouts meet when Tom Brady leads the New England Patriots against Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers.
By the time Bledsoe, the top pick in 1993, recovered from a sheared blood vessel in his chest in 2001, Brady was entrenched at quarterback. Now, 11 years later, Brady says he didn’t feel awkward despite Bledsoe’s disappointment at losing his job after being injured.
“It was a long time ago for me, but there was nothing like that on our team,” he said yesterday. “I had great support from all of the quarterbacks, especially Drew, at the time. I don’t really know what’s going on in San Francisco.”
That’s where Smith, the No. 1 draft choice in 2005, suffered a concussion on Dec. 2 in a collision with Jo-Lonn Dunbar of the St. Louis Rams near the left sideline on a 4-yard run to the 49ers 26-yard line.
He kept playing, completing his final five passes on the series. He finished it off with a 14-yard scoring throw to Michael Crabtree early in the second quarter.
Kaepernick replaced Smith for the next series and he hasn’t played since.
Bledsoe’s injury came in the second game of the 2001 season on an 8-yard run when he was hit in the fourth quarter at the right sideline by Mo Lewis of the New York Jets. He stayed in the game until being replaced by Brady for the final series.