FOXBORO, Mass. — Gunner Olszewski’s inclusion on the New England Patriots’ 53-man roster could have ramifications for Julian Edelman.
In addition to being the team’s No. 1 receiver, Edelman was the Patriots’ primary punt returner last season and has been for much of his NFL career, which began in 2009. But Olszewski, who surprisingly cracked the roster as an undrafted rookie out of Division 2 Bemidji State, excelled on punt and kick returns this preseason while Edelman recovered from a broken thumb.
The Patriots could opt to use the youngster in that dangerous role this season to lighten Edelman’s workload and decrease the 33-year-old’s risk of injury.
That would be fine with Edelman, but the veteran wide receiver would prefer to maintain the status quo.
“I love returning punts,” Edelman said Friday. “And if the coach asks me to return a punt, I’ll return a punt. But if the coach has Gunner back there, I’m excited for him. But I like returning punts.”
Asked if he’s hoping to avoid being “Wally Pipp’d” by Olszewski — the same term Patriots coach Bill Belichick used when discussing Edelman’s impressive rookie preseason with receiver/punt returner Wes Welker a decade ago — Edelman replied: “Who’s that?”
“How many Super Bowls does Wally Pipp have?” he said with a smile.
Olszewski, who played cornerback and returned kicks and punts in college before converting to receiver this spring, has drawn comparisons to Edelman, a former college quarterback who made the Patriots’ roster as a seventh-round draft pick. Both are versatile players — Olszewski subbed in at cornerback in New England’s preseason finale — who play the game with an endearing tenacity.
“We’re not going to get into a scouting report of another player,” Edelman said. “I’m a football player. You’d have to ask Nick Caserio on that one or Coach Belichick. But I love Gunner. He’s got a great attitude. He comes in, he works hard. We’re excited to have him, and I’m excited for his first game.”
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images