FOXBORO, MASS., DEC. 15 -- They haven't broken Tommy Hodson's spirit yet.

New England's rookie quarterback, who was perceived as a consolation prize when the Patriots lost the Jeff George sweepstakes to the Indianapolis Colts, is having fun despite playing on the NFL's worst team.

"I still love to play the game," Hodson said today after a 25-10 loss to the playoff-bound Washington Redskins. "It's still a thrill for me to be a quarterback in the NFL."

His teammates say that Hodson, a third-round draft choice out of Louisiana State, is a gamer who perseveres running an offense that constantly is in a state of change.

"Since Tommy took over {Nov. 25, vs. Phoenix} he has improved a great deal," said wide receiver Irving Fryar, who caught three passes for 68 yards to give him career highs in receptions (43) and receiving yards (738). "Everyone has a lot of confidence that he can get the job done."

The performance of Hodson, the third quarterback drafted behind George and Heisman Trophy winner Andre Ware, drew no reaction from Patriots Coach Rod Rust.

Rust was put in an unusual position this week when defensive coordinator Charlie Sumner resigned. "I can't begin to comment on Tommy Hodson's game simply because I didn't see it," said Rust, whose team lost a club-record 12th straight game. "When our offense was on the field I was usually meeting with the defense."

Hodson (13 of 24, 217 yards) did draw praise from the Redskins, especially from Coach Joe Gibbs.

Hodson "made some really key plays for them," said Gibbs. "He's a tough guy. Nobody thought he was going to be able play this year, but he has and he's done well. I think the Patriots have a good young player there."

Hodson, who took over the starting reins from Marc Wilson (who had replaced Patriots folk hero Steve Grogan) says he is gaining confidence with each start, and refuses to blame anyone but himself for the Patriots' sputtering offense.

"We played hard, we just got off to a bad start and I made some bad mistakes," he said of today's game. "When you come into a game at 1-12, you need good things to happen, but unfortunately it didn't work out that way.

"Nobody got down, nobody said, 'We're out of this one' at the half. Everybody just continued to play hard, which is the way its been all year. Nobody on this team has ever been accused of packing it in early."

Hodson could have blamed New England's loss on any number of outside elements, including a broken ring finger on his throwing hand, the driving rain, the cold tempature and the ongoing internal strife of the Patriots' front office.

Instead, the shy rookie with the slow southern drawl took all the responsibility.

"The weather was bad, but I've played in worse. The water makes the leather ball a bit heavier, but you get used to it and you can control it," he said. "And as far as my finger goes, it's starting to feel a lot better, but I don't think it adversely affects my throwing ability. In fact, I think I was lucky it was my ring finger; any other finger and I probably wouldn't be able to throw the ball at all."

Hodson says he doesn't pay much attention to the goings-on of management -- recent reports say owner Victor Kiam is courting University of Miami Athletic Director Sam Jankovich to replace General Manager Patrick Sullivan -- saying he'd rather concentrate on what happens on the field.

"Those things only affect me indirectly," said Hodson. "I try not to concern myself with that stuff. It's really out of my hands."

With just two games left, most Patriots fans are waiting for this season to fizzle -- 22,286 witnessed today's game, a nonstrike record low for Foxboro Stadium.

"We've all had our ups and downs in life, and football is full of them," said Hodson. "We'll continue to show up with our heads up. It doesn't do any good to pout."