FOXBORO, Mass. — Julian Edelman had a little more pep in his step when he came firing out of the New England Patriots’ tunnel like ammunition from a discharged musket.
Edelman had been thinking of that moment for a long time. He tore his ACL in the preseason last summer, so he hadn’t played a meaningful game since the Patriots’ Super Bowl LI win over the Atlanta Falcons. He made his season debut Thursday night in the Patriots’ 38-24 win over the Indianapolis Colts after serving a four-game suspension.
For those who don’t attend Patriots games at Gillette Stadium nor have seen videos on social media, the rest of the Patriots jog out of the locker room tunnel. Some head straight for the sideline, while others stop in the opposite end zone to pray. Edelman flies out of the tunnel in a dead sprint and accentuates the run with a leaping fist pump towards Patriots fans in the Optum Lounge.
“That’s just something that gets me fired up, and you get to share it with the people that come out and support you and get them riled up,” Edelman said after Thursday’s win. And I remember when I tore my ACL, I was sitting back and during the rehab, I was just sitting there and, ‘can’t wait to run out that tunnel.’ So, it was great to get to be able to play with the fellas. It was awesome to get the team win. Obviously, we could do a lot more better, but anytime you go and beat a team in the conference, it’s always great, especially the Colts. So, we’ll leave it at that.”
Edelman, who caught seven passes on nine targets for 57 yards and returned two punts for 20 yards, looked like his old self.
“I feel like I’m the best me right now,” Edelman said. “I’m living my best life.”
He didn’t disagree with the notion that taking four games off to start the season might have been a blessing in disguise.
“I mean, I definitely took advantage of the time, coming off an injury,” Edelman said. “I had a good routine going. Brian from the Edge, I had (Rob) Ninkovich out there. Harvard was very generous to let me use their facilities, Boston College, Rivers Academy, Foxboro, it was pretty cool to see all the support from all those people and these organizations and places. So, I definitely took advantage of it, but I still can get better.”
Edelman also worked out with the Boston Celtics — he wore a personalized jersey to his news conference — though he only would allude to those training sessions.
“I worked out in Brighton with some tall guys,” Edelman said with a smirk. “So, I’ll leave it at that.”
It was nice to be catching passes from No. 12 Tom Brady, rather than lifting with Celtics No. 12 Terry Rozier, however.
“It was great,” Edelman said. “Some things that obviously we have to work on. It was good to get out there and catch some rocks and go out and make some plays and be with the fellas. I haven’t played football in I think it was like 400 or 500 days or something like that. It was good to be out there in front of the crowd. They were rockin’, they were awesome. Seeing all of them was amazing. It was great to be back.”
Edelman wound up playing 69.6 percent of Patriots offensive snaps Thursday night, so he was barely even limited in his return. Edelman’s snaps should continue to rise in the coming weeks. And he’s got some extra time to rest after his season debut. The Patriots don’t play Week 6 until Sunday night, when they take on the Kansas City Chiefs.
Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images