By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Julian Edelman is making the media rounds this week, as part of a publicity tour for his documentary airing on Showtime this coming Friday night. Part of that tour brought Edelman back to the podcast “Pardon My Take,” where the Patriots star and reigning Super Bowl MVP covered a wide variety of topics.
Among those topics was, naturally, head coach Bill Belichick. With the Hall of Famer entering his 20th season in charge of the Patriots and not showing any signs of slowing down, the coach was a major point of discussion during the lengthy interview. Edelman arrived on that topic by answering a question about what it takes to play receiver for the Patriots.
“It depends on the player. You’ve gotta find your niche. If you’re a guy that can play a lot of positions, that can adjust on the fly, that can read coverage and do all those types of things, because we do so much, you’re going to have a better chance of succeeding in our system. If you’re a guy who can only do one thing — you know, run a go ball — it’s going to be tough, just because we have so many things that adjust every single play. Coach looks for smart, tough football players. That’s what he says every day — he wants a smart, tough football player,” Edelman explained. “It’s just sometimes it’s hard to play here. It’s hard to play here. It’s not like you have Wednesday, Thursday to kind of get warm; we’re practicing hard every day. And, you know, it’s mentally, physically and emotionally draining to play for the Patriots.”
That comment brought to mind the infamous comments from Eagles lineman Lane Johnson about preferring to have fun while winning one championship instead of winning multiple championships without having as much fun.
“I think, you know, celebrating at parades and going out and going to Disney Land and coming here to talk about championships is very fun,” Edelman said. “It’s a process. I mean, of course, there’s s— that you don’t like doing. … A lot of coaches try to leave and be Belichick. I don’t think … there’s only one guy that’s Bill. He’s been in the league for 40 years. He started at the Baltimore Colts. This guy is … you can’t just go and try to harp like you’re Bill belichick, because he’s got a respect level that everyone knows about. I don’t know — I have fun.”
That led to Edelman sharing a story of the Patriots’ recent team visit to go paintballing — a story that included a tremendous visual on the 67-year-old coach.
“We went paintballing. It was amazing,” Edelman said. “So we do fun activities. We’ve done a couple of field trips. … It was pretty fun walking by and seeing Bill crawl. I swear to God — I think he got hit like four times and didn’t get up, and people were just hitting him. It was hilarious.”
All of that being said, Edelman made sure to give stock answers when asked any questions about football strategy. Edelman, who’s been in Foxboro for a decade, knows that jokes are fine, but there are always limits to what can be said during public interviews.
“Hey, you know, we had a couple of different coverages, we had a couple of different plays, and … ” Edelman said, before getting interrupted to be told that he was answering like a typical Patriots player.
“I won’t do it the whole interview,” Edelman explained. “But if it has anything to do with football, I’ll probably end up doing this so I don’t end up getting mother-effed by my coach.”
Some other topics covered …
Edelman said he tried Tom Brady’s diet, but it didn’t stick. Something about eating “like a deer” didn’t appeal to Edelman.
“He’s all about his lifestyle, that TB12 thing, and it works for him. That’s why he’s the GOAT,” Edelman said. “I tried it, and, I mean, I was so hungry all the time. Because he eats like a deer — nuts and berries. I need some beef, some protein.”
Edelman was of course asked if his good pal Rob Gronkowski will come out of retirement. Edelman would love for that to happen, but didn’t sound like he’s holding his breath.
“Uh, I mean, I think so. I think so,” Edelman said when asked if Gronk is retired for good. “Honestly, I don’t know, man. My guy’s having some fun right now, he’s enjoying it. He’s taken a lot of hits. He takes a beating. He’s 6-foot-7, any time he falls that’s three-and-a-half feet. … We never had that conversation, but you know, you could just tell that my guy was, he was feeling it a little bit here and there. He’s gotten banged up.”
As for whether Gronkowski might return in November for the stretch run and postseason?
“Well, I’m a fan for it. So I hope he does,” Edelman answered. “He’s a valuable player.”
As for a percentage?
“I’d say maybe … 11 percent chance,” No. 11 answered.
Elsewhere in the land of Patriots pass catchers, Edelman was asked about Josh Gordon. Edelman said he’s not sure what Gordon’s status will be but is likewise hoping to play with him this season.
“I hope. I’m wishing for the best. With his situation, it’s different than … it’s a life situation. And you’re pulling for him for that, to get better,” Edelman said. “And selfishly, I want him because he’s a really good football player and he can help us. I don’t know anything going into it. Like, legit, I’ve asked 30 people in the organization, outside, like, ‘Do you know what’s going to happen?’ And no one knows not one thing. So, we’re just kind of sitting and waiting to see what the circumstances are going to be with him, because he’d be a really good tool to have. He balls.”
Belichick’s ability to evolve with the different type of players entering the league also came up.
“I think he’s the same guy when it comes to preparation, discipline and all that. But he’s probably one of the best evolvers in the league, and yes, honestly it has gotten softer from when I first got there,” Edelman said. “A lot of guys think it’s tough, but we used to have double days, and seven, eight days of double days in a row. With the type of guys that you have coming in now, it’s just a different mind-set, and he’s adjusting to it.
“I definitely think it’s evolved a little. But I also think it has to do with the type of player you’re coaching now. With social media — I mean, you have a kid who’s famous since high school for doing a back flip, and a sense of entitlement coming in here. I mean, [Belichick’s] still going to be a stickler when it comes to that, but like, the way he approaches things, the way we learn things now, it’s very compatible to the type of guys that we have coming in now.”
The Mysterious Ernie Adams is always worth asking about, and Edelman shared some insight into what Adams actually does for the Patriots and for Belichick.
“He doesn’t necessarily give you tips. I ask him questions, you know, on defenses, because he knows all the numbers. He legitimately has [photographic] memory, so I’ll be like, ‘Yo, Ernie, on third down in the red area when they’re down four points, what do we expect this team to do?’ And he’ll rattle off this, this, this, this,” Edelman shared. “Then if you throw a player at him, like, ‘Yo, what’s this guy like?’ And he’ll be like ‘He doesn’t use his arms’ or … he’s just information. That’s what he is. And I honestly think that’s what he does for Coach. … My guy knows every rule, regulation. Rule guy. History guy. Statistic guy. He’s pretty smart. … Ernie’s there for everything.
“Ern Man, he’s a set of eyes on everything. He’s Bill’s right hand man.”
Edelman also answered some questions about his journey back from a torn ACL and through his four-game suspension for PEDs, all of which will be examined in his upcoming documentary.
“You get an inside look of a player that’s going through not just an injury — you know, I was suspended the first four games. Adversity, and how I had to deal with that. We get into that. Me and my father didn’t talk for a while because of that. There were some tough times in there,” Edelman said. “It’s just going to kind of give you that outline of what an athlete goes through, just like anyone else when there’s an adverse situation, and how they deal with it with their family, how they deal with it with their profession, their friends. It’s a life story, not just a sports story, about trying to improve yourself.”
He added: “It’s tough, bro. It was probably the hardest time in my life, just dealing with that mentally. You’re thinking, am I going to be back to what I was before I got hurt? And then you don’t even get to have a test try the first four games — you have to come out on a Thursday night game and play against the Colts. It’s a tough situation. It was a learning experience for me, and you guys will see how I dealt with it.”
And more: “There were some lonely, lonely days and nights. You feel very isolated. You’re sitting watching your team on the TV, and you can’t communicate with anyone, you’re sitting there, you’re going crazy, pulling your hair out. At the same time, is it gonna be all right? Is it still good? I haven’t been hit like this. There’s a lot of things that go through your head. And this captures it and kind of shows you, the viewer, on how to deal with it.
Edelman indicated that he knows the Patriots are largely hated around the country, but that it doesn’t bother him in the slightest.
“You know how it is, people don’t like us. I mean, Tom Brady will get his name in [some rap songs], Gronk, but everyone else, we’re just kind of … ” Edelman said when asked if he might end up in any rap lyrics.
Edelman was then asked if he likes the hate.
“Uh, I kind of do, yeah. I guess. When you’re doing something good and people hate you, and you’re getting hated on, it means you’re doing something right,” Edelman said. “I mean, we get enough love from our fan base. A lot of people respect us. They may hate us, but they respect us. I’m not here to change feelings. I’m here to go out and try to win football games.”
And, in what is a true sports tragedy, Edelman said that he did not receive a free car for winning Super Bowl MVP.
“No!” Edelman said when asked if he was gifted some new wheels. “Terrible. I think this is the first year they didn’t give a car out. I wanted to give it to my Pop.”