Jeff Blake of the Philadelphia Eagles before the start of Super Bowl XXXIX against the Patriots at Alltell Stadium.
Jeff Blake of the Philadelphia Eagles before the start of Super Bowl XXXIX against the Patriots at Alltell Stadium. (Globe Staff Photo / Jim Davis) Globe Staff Photo / Jim Davis

Veteran has added presence

QB backup Blake very experienced

By Frank Dell'Apa
Globe Staff / February 7, 2005

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Most top-level NFL teams would be at a disadvantage without their starting quarterback -- especially if that player were as prominent as the Philadelphia Eagles' Donovan McNabb. But Jeff Blake, one of McNabb's backups, disagrees.

"If I had to go in, I would have the advantage," Blake said. "[The Patriots] don't know me. They are not studying me. But I am studying them and I know them."

That confidence and positive thinking, combined with the credibility of a long career, have made Blake a potentially valuable asset. Philadelphia's choice of Blake as a backup indicates the team's sense of urgency and a sense of security for the coaches. The Eagles have added other veterans, such as Hugh Douglas, Dorsey Levens, and Jeremiah Trotter, elevating them into prominent roles.

Blake, 34, has been a full-time starter for four NFL teams, most recently the Arizona Cardinals in 2003. But Blake has been satisifed to remain in a reserve role this season.

"The rap on me is that I was too competitive to be a backup," Blake said. "But that's the nature of the beast. If I am better than the starter, I want to knock him out, I want to play.

"If the starting quarterback is as good or better than me, there is no need to do that. Why rock the boat? But if he is a young guy and I can do better, then I am going to go for it. If I can help the team win, I want to do that. But teams don't want you coming in and knocking out their guy."

Blake, who has started 100 games for Cincinnati, New Orleans, Baltimore, and Arizona, and was the starting quarterback in the 1995 Pro Bowl, realizes he could become expendable after the season. But Blake was not talking like someone on the verge of retirement.

Though Blake has proven himself, he felt unfulfilled in his career, having performed briefly in one playoff game for the Saints since joining the NFL in 1993.

"My big reason for coming to Philly is that they had been to the NFC Championship game every year for three years," Blake said. "I figured the worst I can do is be in the NFC Championship game.

"I came here because I wanted to win. I've played a lot of games but now I am doing exactly what I wanted to do -- be part of a winning team. It gives you clout. Just being here helps. When you become a free agent, teams want you. I am getting better looks now than last year because teams want guys who have been there. They want guys who have had the Super Bowl experience."

Blake, a 13-year veteran, never has faced the Patriots in a regular-season game. And his performances in the final two games of the regular season are deceptive. Blake and Koy Detmer replaced McNabb in the second half of a 20-7 loss to St. Louis Dec. 27, the three quarterbacks throwing for a combined 74 yards. The next week, Blake relieved Detmer in the second half of a 38-10 loss to Cincinnati, throwing for 85 yards and a 3-yard touchdown to Freddie Mitchell.

Despite passing for 21,656 yards in 117 career games, Blake never had been close to reaching the Super Bowl, or even a Monday night game before joining the Eagles. So, as the Eagles were taking a 49-21 win over Dallas on "Monday Night Football" Nov. 15, coach Andy Reid sent Blake in. Blake was sacked for a 2-yard loss, but appreciated the gesture.

"This is a first-class organization," Blake said. "The [training] facility is first class, the food, the way they treat the players. Guys come to work and they don't want to leave; they stay and it gets to be 5:30, 6 o'clock and their wives are calling and saying, `When are you coming home?'

"It's a great atmosphere and all the guys get along."

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