FOXBORO, Mass. — Not only is Julian Edelman having the best season of his NFL career at age 33. He’s also been playing hurt for months now.
The veteran wide receiver first appeared on the New England Patriots’ injury report after getting knocked out of the team’s Week 3 win over the New York Jets with what the team called a chest injury. In the 10 weeks since, he’s been able to fully participate in just three Patriots practices, picking up a bothersome shoulder injury along the way.
Edelman has yet to miss a game this season, however, and it took until Dec. 11 for him to miss his first practice. He sat out the first session of Cincinnati Bengals week on Wednesday, reportedly for “load management purposes” after suffering a knee injury during Sunday’s loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Mohamed Sanu, who joined New England’s receiving corps following a midseason trade, said he’s awed by the toughness Edelman displays each day.
“Man, y’all don’t understand how tough Jules is,” Sanu said after Wednesday’s practice. “That dude’s tough. He’s a tough son of a gun, and he goes out there every day. Whether there’s something aching, something biting or whatever the case may be, he gives it all he’s got. Even when they tell him not to, he’s still out there, and that’s what I love about him. I love to compete with him, man.”
Despite his various ailments, Edelman has been far and away the Patriots’ top pass-catcher this season. He has 90 receptions for 1,010 yards and six touchdowns through 13 games, putting him on pace to surpass or equal his career highs in all three categories.
Among Patriots teammates, only running back James White (62-539-3) has even come close to matching those totals this season. The next-most productive New England receiver, Phillip Dorsett, has 28 catches for 347 yards.
“You can see how tough he is in his play,” Sanu said. “They don’t call him Squirrel for nothing. He’s a bad man.”
Losing Edelman for any period of time would be a gigantic blow to the Patriots’ offense. Since the team’s Week 10 bye, Edelman has more catches and receiving yards (27 for 347) than the rest of New England’s receiving corps combined (25 for 281).
Sanu said he’s confident he and the Patriots’ other wideouts (Dorsett, Jakobi Meyers and N’Keal Harry) can carry the load if need be.
“We’ve got some guys that can step up and make plays,” Sanu said. “I don’t care about what’s going on outside. We know what’s in here.”