FOXBORO, Mass. — A torn ACL robbed New England Patriots fans of seeing wide receiver Julian Edelman burst out of the Gillette Stadium tunnel, sprint 100 yards down the field and send a flying fist pump into the south end zone.

Edelman returned to the Gillette Stadium game field Thursday night in the Patriots’ 2018 preseason opener, a game New England won 26-17 over the Washington Redskins, and he was glowing after the game despite receiving zero targets.

“It was awesome, honestly,” Edelman said. “It’s another step in the process of trying to get healthy and playing real football. Going out and hitting guys and feeling bodies, it was just fun to be out there and experience the stadium, the crowd. I’m not saying you take those for granted, but it’s been a while since I’ve got to see them.”

He wouldn’t have minded Patriots backup quarterback Brian Hoyer throwing him a bone during the game, though.

“Of course you always want the ball … Hoyer,” Edelman said smiling. “But it was just good to get out there and hit guys and have guys around you cutting on turf, so it was definitely a fun step.”

Edelman was hard on himself last week, saying he wasn’t yet feeling completely comfortable on his surgically repaired knee. He was far more positive Thursday night.

“You are always trying to get your legs back under you,” Edelman said. “I think I am a week better than last week, so I am trying to go out there and get them a little more this week.”

Edelman will have some additional time to get his knee right before his season starts. He was suspended four games for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy so the receiver won’t take the field in a meaningful game until Week 5 when the Patriots travel to take on the Detroit Lions.

Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images