FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots were down one of their most important offensive players when they returned to the practice field Wednesday afternoon.
Wide receiver Julian Edelman, who’s in the midst of his most productive season yet at age 33, was not spotted at practice as the Patriots continued preparations for Sunday’s matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals. Rookie defensive lineman Byron Cowart also was absent.
Edelman has been by far the Patriots’ best pass-catcher despite battling shoulder and chest injuries for much of the season, ranking third in the NFL in receptions (90) and eighth in receiving yards (1,010) with six touchdowns.
The Patriots held Edelman out of Wednesday’s practice — the first he’s missed all season — for “load management purposes,” a source told Jeff Howe of The Athletic. Edelman, who’d been limited in all but three Patriots practices since Week 4, appeared to be limping during the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 23-16 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Resting Edelman during the week makes sense, as losing him for any period of time would be catastrophic for New England’s already-struggling offense. A lack of secondary receiving threats behind Edelman and running back James White has been a major issue for the Patriots this season.
White ranks second on the team in catches and receiving yards with 62 for 539. No other Patriots player has more than 30 catches or 350 yards.
Center Ted Karras returned to practice Wednesday after missing Sunday’s game with a knee injury.