It didn’t look good. not then anyway.
It was training camp and fairly deep into it if I remember correctly; at least halfway through. The roster was starting to shake out, or at least shake out as much as a roster in which decisions seem to be made more from Coach Belichick’s conversations with Leonidas’ Ephors than actual empirical football evaluation, could. It was the 3rd training camp for wide receiver and punt returner Julian Edelman. He was, I’ll mention just this once, a college quarterback who converted to receiver to try and make it in the pros and had stuck around the Patriots for a third consecutive camp despite some underwhelming performances, particularly in the return game where he had a chance to be a legit value add. We liked the guy I remember. He was a good story and he was spunky and he reminded us just enough of stalwart, star slot receiver Wes Welker to have some hope. I guess he and Welker were similar enough, being undersized, lightly regarded coming out of college guys who made their living with scrappiness rather than pure athletic talent.
If you listened to local media though this was the end of the line for Edelman. There was just no sense keeping both him and Welker and he wasn’t good enough in the return game, yet to keep around. Nope, this was it, we had other guys, time to cut bait. Even some national folks said the same thing. The feel-good story stopped there.
Then, I remember, came another angle that emerged. Recalling this now it sounds insane given how secretive Coach Belichick is however I remember it as clear as day. It was some sort of Pats preseason TV show. An inside look. He was in some sort of office; maybe his own, maybe a training camp temporary setup. And he was with one of the Pats’ backup quarterbacks. They were drawing up and breaking down offensive plays and sets. And they were pretty much set on them. This was the going to be part of the plans going into the season you could just tell. And Edelman was heavily involved. He was far from cut at least. The local guys had it wrong. The national guys were wrong. Julian Edelman was going to get at least a third chance.
It’s now 9 years later now and after a 12-year career Julian Edelman has decided to hang them up. After a litany of injuries, three Super Bowls, one of which he was named the MVP of, and enough clutch moments to become one of the bigger legends in Boston sports history, he has decided, as he said himself, that the wheels have finally come off.
There is an old and quite emotive line I’ve read that goes something like, “One day you and your friend went inside after playing together all day and no on knew it was the last time.” Even writing that just now hit me a little bit. And it is kind of like that with Edelman. We knew it was getting towards the end. Supposedly he played in six games in last years absolute mess of a season and that just sounds high. We knew as of last week he couldn’t “play a full season” this year, which isn’t really something said about a player in the NFL’s availability. Either he’s hurt or not; or he’s available or not. That’s it. So the ambiguity gave way to the ominous writing on the wall. Which was the question of: Is this it? And it was. It happened strangely as we know. He was actually cut, with the “failed physical” designation, a few hours before his official announcement. But I guess when players are cut with this designation they are entitled to some sort of disability compensation from the CBA. So, knowing he couldn’t play anymore, the Pats did Edelman a solid.
As I mentioned, he had too many clutch moments to count. The most memorable for me is him snagging that ball out of the air, him already basically on the ground, the ball not inches from being incomplete itself. It didn’t seem possible. Not until the third or fourth replay. He also retires with a perfect QB record, being 3/3 with 3 TDs and 100-some odd yards. He locked down Anquan Boldin in the slot once when the Pats were devoid of corners, something akin to what one of his spiritual predecessors, Troy Brown, had to do for the team back in the day.
Most of all, something I’ve waited to touch on, was his passion. His desire. His drive. I wouldn’t say Edelman played with a chip on his shoulder as much as he played with a fire in his belly. Who doesn’t remember him berating his teammates for celebrating too early? Who doesn’t him remember screaming “YOU’RE TOO FUCKING OLD” in Tom Brady’s face during the AFC Title game a couple of years ago, probably channeling the feeling of being written off as used goods to fuel his own performance that night. He is one of the most entertaining “Mic’d Up” features, giggling like a madman and proclaiming he “LOVES CONTACT!” after taking big hits. Massive hits, from multiple linebackers at once. He was a shot of adrenaline straight to the heart, as Vincent Vega would have described.
So it’s JE11, out. It’s Foxboro Forever. It’s no more worshipping at Our Lady Of The Immaculate Hand Towel. But good Lord, it was a hell of a run. It was the most unexpected of runs.
Thanks for everything, Jules.