Under normal circumstances, the New England Patriots would currently be in the process of preparing for their preseason finale against the New York Giants on Thursday. With the entire exhibition schedule getting nixed because of the Coronavirus pandemic, however, the Patriots and the rest of the league are operating on a different schedule — one that has been taxing on the players, as wide receiver Julian Edelman recently acknowledged.
Edelman is participating in his 12th training camp as a pro, but has never been part of a preparation process like this year’s.
The Patriots began the full-team portion of camp on August 12, which is two weeks after the usual starting date, and put on their full pads five days later. Since then, there have only been a handful of off-days with New England stacking practices together in order to make the most out of each session and try to replace preseason football and the truncated offseason workouts as best as possible.
“It’s a different experience,” Edelman said during a media conference on Tuesday. “We haven’t got to go out and play anyone. Honestly, this has been a grind. We’ve been having six-day practices... Usually you have four days on, a day off. You break up when you start playing other teams in the preseason. This has just been a straight grind the whole time. The teams that take advantage of it and really use it to the best of their abilities are the teams that are going to do well with it.”
The situation that the 34-year-old and the rest of his Patriots teammates are in may be unique to the NFL experience, but it should be nothing new for the team’s players as a whole: Bill Belichick previously compared it to the college football preparation process. Edelman, as he pointed out on Tuesday, can see the comparison even though college, as he noted, would be “a long time ago” (he played his last game at Kent State in November 2008).
“I would say probably it’s similar to that,” Edelman said. “But I mean this is what has been going on five weeks... Is it five? Six? Five-and-a-half? Four? It’s definitely different but it’s something that everyone’s dealing with. Like I said, the team that deals with it the best and takes advantage of this time, and really goes to work with purpose, is going to be the team that puts itself in the best situation to go out and win. That’s what we’re trying to do, that’s what I’m trying to do.”
Edelman has been actively involved in the process, even though the Patriots have given him some rest days for the first time in his career. Still, the veteran feels confident in his and his team’s ability to be ready once the proverbial bullets start flying for real.
“Our coaches do a good job of putting us in drills, and certain live-contact situations to get us best prepared to be dealing with the situation,” said Edelman. “But of course, you’d like to go out and get hit, and just kind of get the cobwebs to clear a little, and get ready for the season and what it’s going to be.
“You know your readiness through how you feel after you compound days and days and weeks and weeks of good practicing and good habits. That’s when you usually put yourself in the best situation, in the best feeling to go and feel ready. Just continually trying to stack good practices and good reps together.”
Whether or not the Patriots have been able to do just that will be seen in not even two weeks: New England opens its regular season at home — although without fans in attendance — versus the Miami Dolphins on September 13. Edelman will be one of the team’s leaders when it takes the field that day, and its second-longest tenured member behind only special teams captain Matthew Slater.