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Bishop still on NFL map

By Bob Lutz

The Wichita Eagle - May 2, 2001

Smarter people than I have determined Michael Bishop is not ready to be the No. 1 quarterback on a National Football League team.

Bishop hasn't even been a No. 2. For the past two seasons, since finishing as the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy at Kansas State in 1999, Bishop has been the No. 3 quarterback for the New England Patriots.

Third-string quarterbacks don't play much, but they are experts with clipboards and pencils.

I have always believed Bishop could be an NFL star -- if given the opportunity.

But New England already has Drew Bledsoe, one of the highest paid quarterbacks in the league. And he's not going anywhere, having recently signed a 10-year contract extension.

The Pats also brought in Damon Huard from Miami during this off-season. Huard played in all 32 games for the Dolphins during the past two seasons, albeit only six as a starter.

Clearly, Bishop is not going to be handed anything. Though he was a better college quarterback than Donovan McNabb, Duante Culpepper and Shaun King, he has not been able to establish himself in the NFL the way they have.

Maybe that will to change.

The Patriots have sent Bishop to NFL Europe, where they want him to gain experience after two years of basically doing nothing.

Through two weeks, Bishop's Frankfurt Galaxy team is 0-2. However, he is the top-rated quarterback in the league, having passed for 332 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 94 yards on 11 carries.

So far, Bishop has been the most exciting player in NFL Europe, a developmental league that includes obscure NFL players and prospects.

Some other quarterbacks in Europe include Spergon Wynn of Cleveland, Jarious Jackson of Denver, Jonathan Quinn of Jacksonville, Clint Stoerner of Dallas and Giovanni Carmazzi of San Francisco.

Bishop is one of those quarterbacks that intrigues everybody, mostly because he's anything but prototypical. He loves to dance in the pocket and his decision-making, even when he was at Kansas State, could make grown men cry.

"Obviously, he has a lot of athletic talent,'' New England quarterback coach Dick Rehbein said of Bishop. "He's extremely mobile, he has quickness and a strong arm. And in this day and age you hear people talk more and more about the mobile quarterback.''

Multi-dimensional quarterbacks, because of players such as Philadelphia's McNabb and Minnesota's Culpepper, are the current fad in the NFL. Except in New England.

"This is kind of Drew's team right now,'' Rehbein said.

No kidding.

The best Bishop can hope for in 2001 is to beat out Huard for the back-up spot. If Bledsoe gets hurt, as most quarterbacks do at some time during a season, then Bishop would get a chance to play.

So far, however, Bishop has made only nine passes for the Patriots. One of them was a 44-yard Hail Mary for a touchdown with only seconds remaining in the first half of a game against the Indianapolis Colts, his first NFL pass.

"I think what Michael is doing right now, playing over in Europe, is a big step for him,'' Rehbein said. "When you essentially don't play for two years there is concern that the skills may be a little tarnished.''

That apparently hasn't happened to Bishop in Frankfurt.

He has passed for three touchdowns, one of them an 80-yarder. He is averaging more than eight yards per carry and has a 30-yard touchdown run. That's exactly the same kind of scintillating stuff he was doing at Kansas State.

"We think Michael is going to come out of this experience with a lot of confidence in his ability,'' Rehbein said. "Guys like Michael can create some plays that might not be there with another quarterback.''

Rehbein realizes Bishop is totally unlike Bledsoe. That could work to the Patriots' advantage, though.

"I saw Michael in Florida a couple of weeks ago, when he was working out,'' Rehbein said. "He has really adapted to the offense of the Frankfurt team. He's kind of back to the way he was at Kansas State.''

If so, perhaps we haven't heard the last of Bishop.


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