The writing was already on the wall, but head coach Bill Belichick confirmed on Friday that the New England Patriots will be without Julian Edelman for the regular season finale on Sunday. The wide receiver will not be activated off injured reserve ahead of the upcoming game against the New York Jets.
“He’s not going to play this year,” said Belichick before noting that the veteran did not suffer any setback during his relatively brief return to practice last month. “I wouldn’t say that, no. I would just say he wasn’t ready to play and won’t be ready to play.”
Edelman was originally placed on injured reserve in October after undergoing surgery on his knee. He was listed on every injury report going all the way back to Week 1 because of the issue, and eventually decided to have it cleaned up.
He did not miss any games before his procedure, but his production and comparatively limited playing time did raise questions at the time. While Edelman played 265 of a possible 389 offensive snaps through six games (68.1%), fellow wide receivers Damiere Byrd and N’Keal Harry were on the field for 92.5 and 71.2 percent of snaps, respectively.
Despite his reduced opportunities compared to Byrd and Harry, Edelman still played a vital role in New England’s offensive attack earlier this season: by the time he was sent to IR, he was leading the team with 21 receptions on 35 targets for 315 yards.
Edelman did eventually return to practice in mid-December to open his 21-day activation window, but he was not elevated to the 53-man roster for the Patriots’ games against the Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills the last two weeks. He also was suspiciously absent from practice leading up to the Bills game on Monday night, which was already a sign that he would not be activated at all before season’s end.
“He was around regularly,” said Belichick about Edelman’s contributions while sidelined over the last few weeks. “He did a good job of using his experience to help other guys in areas that he was familiar with and could give them benefit from his experience and some guidance.”
Edelman could be able to continue doing that given that he will be under contract for the 2021 season as well. Given his age — he will turn 35 next May — and injury history, however, he certainly projects to be a player to watch over the offseason.
Belichick, meanwhile, was not in a mood to discuss Edelman’s future on Friday.
“I think it’s way too early to start talking about next year.”