FOXBORO, Mass. — There’s always an element of knocking off rust when a player returns to the field after an injury, suspension or, in Julian Edelman’s case, both.
Edelman faced a bigger challenge than most players last week when he returned from a torn ACL and a four-game suspension without getting in an actual practice. Playing on just four days’ rest, the New England Patriots only held walk-throughs last week.
Edelman still played 70 percent of snaps and caught seven passes for 57 yards.
“That’s the situation I was in, so we dealt with it and we were able to get a win, but that was last week,” Edelman said Thursday. “That’s in the past, we’ve got practice now, and I’m looking forward to having another one tomorrow.”
It’s likely Edelman will get a heavier dose of snaps Sunday night when the Kansas City Chiefs take on the Patriots. With a full week of practice under his belt, Edelman should be playing in two- and three-receiver sets. In Week 5, Edelman only took the field when the Patriots deployed three receivers.
The Patriots similarly limited defensive end Rob Ninkovich when he came off a four-game suspension in 2016. Ninkovich played just 38 percent of snaps in his first game back and 68 percent in his second game that season. So, if the Patriots use a similar approach with Edelman, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him play almost a full share in Week 6.
“Any time you get to practice with the team, that’s where you develop your confidence,” Edelman said. “It’s definitely good to have a full week of practice. …
“It’s getting better each day. Honestly, I’m just worried about just getting my assignments down and going out and executing during practice. It is better to have competition, the defense, playing against the D and playing against our corners, getting into the flow, getting bodies. All that stuff does, it allows you to build your confidence, so I like it.”
Prior to Thursday night, Edelman hadn’t played a meaningful game since the Patriots’ Super Bowl LI win over the Atlanta Falcons. He said he learned to appreciate football more while he was hurt and suspended.
“I’ve been away — I was away for a year and some change,” Edelman said. “It’s good to be out with the fellas. Meetings can get on you a little bit here and there, but you realize that you need it, and it’s good to be back.”
Edelman worked out with Ninkovich, who’s now retired, while he was suspended. He credited Ninkovich for helping him stay in football shape during his four weeks away from Gillette Stadium.
“I feel like my conditioning has been pretty good,” Edelman said. “You’re always working to get it better. Going against Ninkovich helped me a lot, so that was good. I really feel like we took advantage of the time that we had. I’m looking forward to going out, getting another practice in and building that confidence a little more.”
Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images