FOXBORO, Mass. — Twenty-nine players on the New England Patriots’ current 53-man roster played in Super Bowl LII last February. Julian Edelman was not one of them.
The 2017 season was a lost one for Edelman, who tore his ACL in August and was rendered unavailable for all 19 of the Patriots’ games, including their Super Bowl loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. A subsequent suspension for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs kept him off the field for an additional month, costing him the first four games of the 2018 campaign.
When Edelman finally returned to action in Week 5, he did so as a 32-year-old who had played a single snap of meaningful football since helping the Patriots complete their historic comeback against the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI.
He didn’t miss a beat.
Edelman was the Patriots’ most productive and reliable receiver over the final three-quarters of the regular season (74 passes, 850 yards, six touchdowns in 12 games) and has been nearly unstoppable in the playoffs, catching nine passes for 151 yards in the divisional round and seven for 96 in the AFC Championship Game.
Against the Kansas City Chiefs last Sunday, he converted two third-and-10s in overtime to atone for an earlier drop that resulted in an interception and send the Patriots to Super Bowl LIII. They’ll take on the NFC champion Los Angeles Rams, and this time, Edelman will be much more than a spectator.
Two days before the Patriots were set to board the plane to Atlanta, Edelman reflected on his chaotic road back to the game’s biggest stage.
“It means the world,” Edelman said. “This is what you play the game for. It’s been a crazy year for me — two years. Have a kid, tear your ACL, miss four games (due to suspension) — I mean, it’s been a mentally, physically and emotionally exhausting year, and you put all that effort into overcoming that for this game. So it’s been a heck of a year to get to go out and play with your teammates and see how this thing’s evolved out, and it’s always a great thing to get to play in the last game of the year.”
As for the first major life event Edelman mentioned, the wideout said his worldview has drastically changed since welcoming his first child, a daughter named Lily, into the world late in the 2016 season.
“One hundred percent,” he said. “When you become a pop, you have different priorities now. You’re not living for yourself. You’re living for someone else now, and it’s pretty cool to go out and experience success and having your little human that’s just running around saying ‘Dada,’ doesn’t know anything’s going on around. She’s like a little good-luck charm, so it’s unbelievable when you get to see her after a game.
“Definitely, the feeling has changed. My whole family’s been a part of my road with how close they are, and to welcome her in, it just makes it bigger and better.”