By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — In terms of general NFL history, Julian Edelman going from a seventh-round pick who converted from quarterback to becoming a Super Bowl MVP as a receiver would be pretty remarkable. For the Patriots, though? It’s very much on brand.
Considering the greatest player in franchise history (and, arguably, NFL history) was drafted with the 199th overall pick back in 2000, the Patriots have certainly made a habit out of finding diamonds in the rough. While Bill Belichick has indeed found great success with his picks in the first round, it’s the work he’s done in the later rounds and among undrafted free agents (as well as with castoffs from other organizations) that he’s really struck it rich. From Mike Vrabel to Rob Ninkovich, from Malcolm Butler to BenJarvus Green-Ellis, from David Andrews to Stephen Neal, and from Trent Brown to Kyle Van Noy, the two separate runs of Super Bowl wins in Patriots history were driven largely by the work of these overlooked or improperly utilized players.
Speaking to NBC’s Peter King, Edelman explained how the Patriots are able to consistently load up their roster with such players.
“I think they grade people differently, honestly,” Edelman said of the Patriots. “They don’t want distractions. They want guys that are versatile. They want mentally tough football players. That’s what I’ve seen through my career being there. They want a smart, physical, tough football player. If you don’t have that, you’re probably not gonna be there.”
Edelman, who was drafted in the seventh round back in 2009, said he’s seen these traits in the hundreds of teammates he’s had over the years.
“I’ve been fortunate to have a bunch of teammates — pretty much all the teammates I’ve had have been pretty good guys,” Edelman said. “You’ve got these young kids out here that have to learn, but you learn from the guys above you. I learned from the Kevin Faulks. I learned from the Toms, the Wes Welkers, the guys that worked hard that were there that were playing at a high level consistently. If you don’t, they usually get rid of you.”
It’s simple enough in theory — and yet, few teams can match that consistency.
In the interview with King, Edelman was also asked about his four-game PED suspension. Edelman seemed to insinuate that he got somewhat of a raw deal with the suspension, but he was unwilling to fully delve into the details.
“A huge low of your life,” Edelman said of the suspension. “Because football is life. That’s what people don’t understand with me. This is what I am. This is what I was put here to do. This is what I sacrificed all my time for — my friends, my family, everything like that. … And then when you’re told you can’t play football for four weeks because of something that happened that you really can’t get into because you really don’t know what happened, it’s tough. You learn a lot from that.”
Edelman added: “People don’t know what happened. I can’t sit here and [due to] the league rules say what happened.”
Edelman did have that freedom, but chose not to utilize it. So King asked Edelman if he believed the suspension was “unjust.”
“I’m not going down that road,” Edelman replied. “I served what I had to serve and I accept that. I know a lot of people were disappointed in me for it. I apologize. It’ll never happen again.”
And while the Super Bowl win over the Rams has New England (and Edelman) feeling ecstatic, the 32-year-old is following his head coach’s lead and is apparently already “on to 2019.”
“Ultimately, I can’t wait to jump back on the horse,” Edelman said, also adding “We still got meat on the bone” and “I’m ready. I wanna get started. I wanna get started!”
Seems as though the Super Bowl celebration lasted all of a week for Edelman before his focus shifted to the next goal in sight.