BOSTON (CBS) — Life is a lot different for Julian Edelman this year at Patriots training camp. And we’re not even talking about all the pandemic-related changes in Foxboro.
Those have certainly made things a lot more difficult for the Patriots and 31 other NFL teams across the country. But for New England, they’re moving on from Tom Brady’s 20-year run of dominance at quarterback. That leaves Edelman without his bestest buddy, his Batman, and the guy who got him the football nearly 600 times during their 10 seasons together.
“Obviously it was a little different scenario. But you have to move on and you understand this is a business,” Edelman said of Brady’s move to Tampa Bay. “You wish him well, and that’s when you instantly start thinking about what you have to do with yourself to help the team in the upcoming year.”
He’s had time to deal with the breakup, so Edelman didn’t sound too bummed that Brady will be wearing a different uniform in 2020. He is focused on what this new-look Patriots team can do in the wake of Brady’s departure.
“Obviously we played a lot of ball together. I love him to death, but the train keeps moving,” he said. “We have to worry about the people that we have here and try to prepare ourselves the best we can with the situation we’re dealing with.”
The Patriots now have Cam Newton, Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer on their depth chart, with that trio set to battle for New England’s starting job as the regular season approaches. Newton signed a one-year, incentive-laden deal late in the offseason, eager to prove to the rest of the league that he can get back to MVP form.
While there were no organized offseason workouts due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Edelman and other receivers were able to put in some work with their new quarterback. Edelman’s first takeaway from his work with Newton: The QB’s massive frame.
“He’s a specimen, for sure. When you first meet him, just his stature — the dude is large,” Edelman said of the 6-foot-5, 245-pound quarterback. “He’s put together well. He’s got a great energy about himself and I was really impressed with his work ethic and mindset. Just like I’ve been impressed with Stidham’s and Hoyer’s. Everyone is out there and everyone is competing at all positions. Competition makes us all better and we’re looking forward to going out and continuing Phase 1 or 2, and getting pads and preparing for real football.”
Edelman said the focus early in camp has been on conditioning, learning the playbook and getting to know his new teammates, which is something that was delayed without the luxury of minicamps.
“It’s been a funky year where we’ve been virtual the whole time. It’s exciting to go meet your teammates in person — socially distant, of course — but those are the kinds of things your excited for,” he said. “On-the-field experience through reps, meetings, being around each other — that’s how you develop [that chemistry]. That’s what we’re looking to do.”
At 34, and with that 43-year-old quarterback now slinging the football elsewhere, Edelman is among the elder statesmen on the New England roster. He brings in years of experience in the New England offense, and is always there to answer any questions from younger players on the roster. He’s ready for an expanded leadership role in 2020.
But along with the leadership, all those years of experience brings plenty of health concerns too. Though his numbers were among some of the best of his career, Edelman nursed a series of injuries in 2019. It’s what happens when a player takes the field with Edelman’s style and intensity.
Edelman said he’s feeling great — and it didn’t just sound like your typical response from a Patriots player when hit with a question regarding their health.
“It’s been a crazy offseason with quarantining and not having a normal routine, so there has been a lot of adjusting. But the body is feeling better every day,” said Edelman, who caught 100 passes for over 1,100 yards last season. “Health questions are very scary to me, especially in this organization.”
There are a lot of changes down in Foxboro this year, but the goal remains the same: Win a lot of football games. Despite the change at quarterback, and all the uncertainty due to COVID-19, Edelman is still confident that the Patriots will add a new chapter to the storied franchise in 2020.
“I have faith in our coaching staff, veteran players to go out and do our best to prepare everyone the best we can. That’s what this season is going to be about, adjusting and overcoming situations that everyone is having to deal with,” he said. “We have a long road ahead of us, but if we bring our hard hats and lunch pales and come in with a purpose, usually good things happen.”