FOXBORO, Mass. — When the rest of the New England Patriots jog out of the tunnel during pregame introductions at Gillette Stadium, wide receiver Julian Edelman is in a full sprint.
The shifty, versatile receiver races a full 100 yards down the field to greet the fans sitting in the south end zone with a leaping fist pump. Outwardly, no one on the team is more excited to play in front of the home crowd.
“You play this game because it’s fun,” Edelman said about what’s going through his mind before games. “You love it. So, just a whole bottle of emotions, and you gotta take the cork out.”
Edelman won’t go through that process this weekend as the Patriots travel to Denver to face the Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Edelman doesn’t mind, however — he likes playing the role of the heel.
“I like playing on the road most of the time,” Edelman said. “You get to see a new stadium. You see how it is in other places. You’re kinda hated by everyone, and that’s always kind of a — that’s a fun kinda — you’re like the villain.”
The Denver crowd clearly bothered some San Diego Chargers players during the Broncos’ divisional playoff win last Sunday. The Patriots are prepared for noise at Mile High — they’ve been blaring music during practice the last three days.
“You go in there, and it’s always more fun at the end of the game when they’re not really loud anymore,” Edelman said about shutting up a crowd after a road win.
The 105-catch, 1,056-yard receiver has been in headlines all week, but it’s not for anything he said or did. Broncos safety Mike Adams said Edelman doesn’t have the “ability or quickness” of Patriot-turned-Bronco receiver Wes Welker. Edelman wouldn’t take the bait and respond to Adams’ insult, though.
“You ignore the noise around here, and you worry about your opponent that you’re going to play against,” Edelman said. “I’m mostly thinking — actually I’m thinking about the defense of the Broncos and their scheme and their personnel and what I have to do to get open and catch the ball. That’s what I think.”
Edelman has been the perfect Bill Belichick disciple this season. He’s played through injuries, he’s done his job to the best of his ability and he stays away from saying anything controversial.
The last time Edelman played in an AFC title game, he split his 54 snaps evenly between slot receiver and slot cornerback. He caught one pass on two targets for 8 yards and added two tackles. He’s primed to have a much greater role against the Broncos, though he has a tough matchup against cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
That’s the life of a No. 1 receiver, however. And this is the kind of game and opportunity Edelman has strived for since he started playing football as a kid.
“It’s going to be a tough environment, and Denver is going to be rocking,” Edelman said. “It’s gonna be stuff that you dream about.” Follow @DougKyedNESN