Thursday, May 20, 2010
Edelman wants more in second season
By Mike Reiss
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- In his first minicamp with the New England Patriots, receiver Julian Edelman's feet were moving so fast he kept falling to the ground.
Later in one of his first training camp practices, he dropped multiple punts, prompting the crowd of 5,000 spectators to boo.
For those who witnessed those early struggles, they are unforgettable reminders of the immense transition Edelman was making from Kent State quarterback to New England Patriots receiver.
One year later, the picture looks vastly different. Edelman is now a bona fide pass-catcher -- he had 37 receptions in 11 games as a rookie -- with Bill Belichick saying that he has made the quarterback-to-receiver transition as fast as one possibly could.
Now comes the next step.
Edelman wants more and the Patriots, who are likely to be without the recovering Wes Welker for at least the early part of the 2010 season, need more.
That's what this offseason has been about for Edelman, who turns 24 on Saturday and will spend part of his birthday volunteering at Welker's weekend football camp for children. He's attacked his workouts and watched countless hours of film in hopes of delivering.
In an afternoon chat with reporters at Gillette Stadium, Edelman flashed a mix of confidence and humbleness that reflected a player who has become more comfortable in his environment in 12 short months on the job.
At one point, he talked about knowing he belonged in the NFL the moment he arrived, mentioning the word "swagger." Yet he also talked about how he is still learning the receiver position, and how comparisons to Welker aren't fair because Welker is one of the best in the NFL and Edelman is simply trying to earn a job.
One of the main points Edelman stressed is that his head is no longer spinning from everything he has to learn, which has allowed him to focus more on improving specific skill development.
While he never doubted that his transition from quarterback to receiver would work, Edelman acknowledged that the magnitude of the switch loomed large at times.
"It is a little overwhelming being a kid who literally a calendar year ago was playing quarterback and then you're playing [receiver] in a playoff game as a receiver for the New England Patriots, which is a great franchise," he said. "I grew up and this was the franchise that was winning Super Bowls. This is still the franchise that gets double-digit wins every year. That's pretty much unheard of. So it's a little overwhelming, but when you're preparing, you really can't think about that. If you do, it's just going to get in your way and you're not thinking about the right things."
Edelman made it clear that one thing he's not thinking about at this time is filling the void created by Welker's knee injury.
"I'm not replacing Wes. You don't replace a guy like Wes Welker," he said. "But I've been hearing it so much you let it go in one ear and out the other."
Yet as part of his film work, Edelman has focused heavily on Welker.
"Mainly I watch Wes and I watch my film to critique myself and see how it compares to Wes'," he said.
Edelman believes he has also benefited from the presence of veterans Torry Holt and David Patten. Donning a backward red cap as he arrived in the media workroom on Thursday, Edelman was still cooling down from a competitive workout with Patten, and said he's also been working regularly with Holt.
|Julian Edelman caught 37 passes last season as a rookie.|
Edelman (6-foot, 198 pounds) feels that he's become "a little more explosive" through offseason workouts and is "a little quicker", but stressed the main part of his work has been the mental aspect of "learning the receiver position once again, with details of how to get open and how to read coverages."
Asked about the pressure of stepping into a tough spot, Edelman shrugged it off.
"My dad always told me that's not really pressure. He said pressure is when you have a $1,000 bill [to pay] and you only have $500 in the bank. With three kids, that's pressure," he responded.
"We get paid to play a game, and you're given opportunities, and you're supposed to take advantage of those opportunities."
Those who watched Edelman in rookie camp and training camp last year might have come to the conclusion that he would never get that opportunity. He was struggling, perhaps trying too hard to impress the coaches as a longer shot seventh-round draft choice (232nd overall).
But at that point, Belichick already knew that Edelman would not only make the team, but compete for playing time. It was just a matter of his getting his feet under him, continuing to learn the receiver position and how to catch punts.
And about those boos in training camp?
"Were they booing or were they saying 'Bruuuu-schi'? I don't know," Edelman chuckled, before turning serious.
"That was a little tough. There were about 5,000 people there. You have some high punts. I was still new to it, a little nervous with the fans out there, but you have to have a short memory."
Many have since forgotten Edelman's early struggles based on his unexpected rookie performance, which has created higher expectations.
Now he's embracing the challenge to meet them.
Mike Reiss covers the Patriots for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.
I'm not replacing Wes. You don't replace a guy like Wes Welker. But I've been hearing it so much you let it go in one ear and out the other.