BOSTON (CBS) — Julian Edelman didn’t have much experience returning punts before joining the Patriots, but the quarterback-turned-wide receiver has become pretty good at the trade.
Edelman was the example New England head coach Bill Belichick used Friday when asked about players with little or no punt-returning experience picking up the skill. In the middle of his answer, things really got interesting.
“It’s easier for some people than others. But in the end, you can learn how to catch punts. I feel like I can catch punts because I can know where the ball is going to go,” he said. “I might drop it, but I can pick up the direction, I can get under the ball. I think it can be a learned skill. I don’t think you have to have had a lot of experience doing it.”
Shots fired? Is this Belichick’s way of telling his players they hang on to the ball on special teams — or he’ll get out there and do it himself?
With Edelman out for the next three games as he serves a four-game suspension, the Patriots have been looking for someone to take over their punt returning duties. Riley McCarron was their guy in Week 1, but he is unemployed after a costly mistake against the Texans. It’s unclear who will get the job when the Pats take on the Jaguars Sunday afternoon in Jacksonville. Newly signed running back Kenjon Barner and safety Patrick Chung are the likeliest of candidates, along with wide receivers Cordarrelle Patterson and Chris Hogan.
But now there’s Belichick, who said he never returned punts in game action during his playing days, but added that he’s caught hundreds in practice. This is no surprise, as we’ve seen number offensive linemen corral a punt during training camp, earning the team some extra time off (this year, it was rookie offensive lineman Isaiah Wynn, who needed an extra try to accomplish the goal).
So could we see Belichick pull an unprecedented move and activate himself for Sunday’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars? The head coach loves versatility, and nothing screams versatility like a 66-year-old who can man the sideline AND return a kick (or at least call for a fair catch).
Unfortunately, it doesn’t sound like we’ll be treated to such an amazing sight.
“No, we don’t want that,” deadpanned Belichick. “We don’t want that.”
Speak for yourself Bill. Sunday’s game should be plenty entertaining on its own, but there are a lot of people who would pay good money to see the Patriots head coach return a bunt in game action. Maybe some day.
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