Hours after learning with certainty that his team would be without Julian Edelman for the upcoming NFL season, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick gave his take on the knee injury that will sideline the star wide receiver until 2018.

“Julian is a great competitor, works hard, is tough, does all the things that you ask him to do,” Belichick said Saturday in a conference call with reporters. “So I feel badly for him, of course.”

Edelman tore the ACL in his right knee minutes into Friday’s preseason victory over the Detroit Lions, with an MRI the following morning confirming the injury. The Patriots later announced he would miss the entire 2017 season.

“We feel badly for Julian and hope that he will have speedy and complete recovery,” Belichick said. “But the team will have to move on, and we’ll have to compete in this season without him. That’s unfortunate, but that’s the way it is. And we’ll have to figure that out.”

Though many Patriots fans lamented the fact Edelman was injured in a meaningless exhibition game, Belichick said the injury did not change the way he feels about the NFL preseason.

“No,” he said. “I feel badly for Julian.”

Though Edelman is quarterback Tom Brady’s favorite target, the Patriots’ offense still has a wealth of weapons even with him sidelined. That list includes wide receivers Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell and Danny Amendola; tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen; and running backs Dion Lewis, James White, Rex Burkhead and Mike Gillislee.

Edelman’s injury also could pave the way for a fringe skill player like receiver Austin Carr or running back D.J. Foster to earn a spot on the 53-man roster.

Regardless, Edelman, who has been with the Patriots 2009, will be missed both on and off the field.

“There’s a personal side (to losing a player to injury),” Belichick said. “You never move on. Julian will be here on a regular basis doing his rehabilitation and so forth, so you never really move on from that standpoint. A player that’s released, that’s a little different situation. But this team has to move forward with the resources that we have.

“Unfortunately, we’ve lost one, and an important one. But as a team, we still have to move forward, and that’s what we’ll do. I guess that process has already started.”

The Patriots did cut ties with one player Saturday, releasing defensive end Kony Ealy.

Thumbnail photo via Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY Sports Images