No other wide receiver on the New England Patriots’ roster has the same experience and career résumé as Julian Edelman. Heck, few wide receivers in NFL history combine the two like the 33-year-old does: the former college quarterback has helped his team win three world championships — including last season’s, when he was named Super Bowl MVP — and established himself as one of the most productive playoff receivers the league has ever seen.
Entering his eleventh season in the pros, Edelman’s role on the team is expected to look like it did ever since he earned a starting position in 2013: he will be quarterback Tom Brady’s go-to wide receiver and safety blanket, and as such a key cog in the Patriots’ offensive machinery. He will also be something else for the team, however, namely a mentor for its young wide receivers. And it sure sounds like Edelman embraces the role.
“I had teammates that help you, and then you had teammates that didn’t — I like to be known as a guy that helped you,” the elder statesman of the Patriots’ wide receiver corps said after the club’s mandatory minicamp practice on Wednesday (transcript via NESN’s Zack Cox). “I like to give little pointers here and there, because the better we all are, the better the team is going to be.”
“I like going out and trying to give information if they want information from me and go from there. It’s part of my job, I guess,” Edelman continued. The veteran pass catcher, who signed a two-year contract extension this offseason that will keep him in New England through 2021, has taken on an especially active role when it comes to teaching N’Keal Harry, the Patriots’ first-round draft pick, the ins and outs of playing the position.
“We’re going to need him to play well — we’re going to need everyone to play well,” Edelman said about the rookie who is expected to see significant playing time in 2019. “He’s just a young guy that comes in, works hard. It’s tough to play receiver here, and he’s doing a good job at that by not making the same mistakes. I’m not a coach — you’ve got to ask Coach Joe [Judge] on that one — but I like his attitude.”
Edelman knows how helpful a guiding voice in the locker room can be. Joining the Patriots as a seventh-round draft pick in 2009, he experienced this first hand through the presence of veteran running back Fred Taylor. “Especially in the National Football League for a rookie, there’s going to be bad days. There’s going to be good days. There’s going to be days where you don’t do anything,” said Edelman about first entering the NFL.
“A guy by the name of Fred Taylor would tell me my rookie year, when I would get a ride from him at the Residence Inn in his Range Rover, he would say, ‘Hey, rook. It’s a roller coaster. You’ve got to just ride that ride and hopefully keep it level-minded,’” Edelman continued when speaking about a running back who spent just two years in New England but left a lasting impression on him nevertheless. “That’s what I would try to say to [Harry].”
The 32nd overall selection in this year’s draft is not the only wide receiver on New England’s roster who is currently being mentored by Edelman: Gunner Olszewski, a former defensive back that was signed by the Patriots as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Division II’s Bemidji State, is also among those working closely with the recipient of 614 combined regular season and playoff passes.
“I love that guy,” Edelman said about Olszewski, who has primarily working as a slot receiver so far during practice sessions open to the media. “If he’s got a question, I’m here to help try to answer it to the best of my ability. I feel that’s part of my role on the team, being here so long. He’s working hard. He’s definitely a tough kid. I love the chip on his shoulder, and I like working with him. That’s for sure.”
Edelman’s role on the 2019 Patriots will ultimately be defined by his numbers. His importance when it comes to teaching the youngsters on the roster, however, cannot be understated either.