The New England Patriots will hold the first practice of this year’s training camp on Thursday, but one of their most important players will not be on the field: according to a report by ESPN’s Field Yates and Adam Schefter, wide receiver Julian Edelman will be sidelined “around three weeks” because of a left thumb injury; he was spotted over the weekend wearing a small brace on his hand.
The reigning Super Bowl MVP being out to start training camp is certainly not ideal for an offense that already has to adapt to life without future Hall of Fame tight end Rob Gronkowski, who retired earlier this offseason. That being said, Edelman’s absence will give the team and quarterback Tom Brady plenty of opportunity to evaluate the other wide receivers on the roster — led by first-round rookie N’Keal Harry.
Harry might become even more of a focal point in the Patriots’ aerial attack with Edelman out. The same increase when it comes to practice snaps could also happen for potential rotational options capable of playing the 33-year-old’s usual role as a slot/boundary hybrid receiver: veteran Phillip Dorsett, second-year man Braxton Berrios, offseason addition Dontrelle Inman, and rookie Ryan Davis, Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski.
Edelman, meanwhile, is expected back in time for New England’s second preseason game (August 17, at Tennessee Titans). However, don’t count on him to see much if any action during that contest and the two exhibition games following it. The Patriots’ goal has to be to get the wide receiver ready for the regular season, and the club will not rush him back onto the field until his thumb is ready.
[UPDATE 7/22, 9:55 p.m. ET] Per NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, Edelman thumb’s injury is described as a mild trauma — one that will keep him out for “just a few weeks.”