For two years in Buffalo, Drew Bledsoe was Gregg Williams's starting quarterback, and with their fates tied together the player and head coach became close. But Monday night -- when Williams is on the sideline running the Washington Redskins' defense and Bledsoe is quarterbacking the Dallas Cowboys -- the coach will be devising ways to torment his former pupil.

Williams and his defense show no mercy, with a scheme predicated on confusing and pounding the passer. Bledsoe, in his first season with the Cowboys, is coming off an excellent start, earning NFC offensive player of the week for his performance in a 28-24 win in the opener against San Diego. Williams has significant insight into how Bledsoe thinks and reacts on the field, and surely will capitalize on the quarterback's lack of mobility. Bledsoe can counter with a powerful arm, and he should be able to find receivers deep downfield when Williams blitzes.

"I have a lot of respect for Drew and that family," Williams said. "He's a class guy, and I think it's ironic that he got rejuvenated again. He played very, very well last week. I saw it on film and had a big smile on my face. Any time you've got a 140 quarterback rating, I know we've got our work cut out for us. He's got a big arm and when he's hot he is really hot. So we're playing against a much, much better quarterback this week, and a better football team, so defensively we've got our work cut out for us."

Bledsoe, 33, was the first overall pick in the 1993 draft and starred for New England before losing his job to Tom Brady in 2001. He signed with Buffalo, where he teamed with Williams for two seasons. The Cowboys signed him as a free agent last offseason, a year after the Bills' struggles led to Williams's firing.

"I have a tremendous amount of respect for Gregg," Bledsoe said during a conference call. "I think you learn a lot more about a guy when things start going bad than you do when things are going good. The best compliment I can pay Gregg is that when things started to turn south a little bit for us in Buffalo, he was steadfast and strong and remained a great leader for that team right up until they let him go."

Bledsoe believes it is only a matter of time before Williams gets another NFL head coaching job, and is not relishing the prospects of his facing his defense Monday. Watching Williams's defense blitz both corners on a play against Chicago last Sunday -- an ultra-aggressive move -- and still provide ample zone coverage, left an impression on Bledsoe.

"That's something you're not supposed to be able to do," Bledsoe said, "and he finds a way to do it and make it be sound."

Noble Looks Ahead, Warily

Defensive tackle Brandon Noble returned to the team after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his left knee for cartilage problems and a bone bruise. Noble had reconstructive surgery on the same knee in 2003, missed that entire season and figured future complications would arise based on the severity of that surgery.

Noble, who is expected to miss four to six weeks, said he is focused on playing through a substantial degree of pain in the second half of this season, although he may have to think seriously about retirement after that. "I've done enough damage to that thing, and I'm only 31 years old," Noble said. . . .

Kicker John Hall (quadriceps) was unable to practice again yesterday -- he is listed as doubtful -- with rookie Nick Novak (Maryland) a strong possibility to make his NFL debut Monday. Safety Ryan Clark (knee), linebacker Chris Clemons (hamstring) and tackle Jon Jansen (thumbs) are all probable. . . .

League officials declined to discipline Chicago linebacker Lance Briggs after reviewing his hit on quarterback Patrick Ramsey from Week 1, league sources said.