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Former Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman details how his knee injuries forced him into retirement

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Even though he entered the NFL as a seventh-round draft pick with no clear position, Julian Edelman developed into one of the most productive players in the league. Even the storybook careers have to end at one point, though, and Edelman’s did so earlier this offseason: after 12 seasons in the league, he announced his retirement in mid-April.

Edelman’s decision to step away from the game did not necessarily come as a surprise. Not only is he already 34 years old and has earned three Super Bowl rings with the New England Patriots, he also has been bothered by chronic knee problems over the last few years.

Appearing on the Pat McAfee Show recently, Edelman detailed how those knee issues eventually forced him into retirement.

“Just like most guys that have knee problems, I’m just bone on bone. And also my medial side is like just worn out because I tore a PCL years ago and you don’t repair those. So, then you just get this lag in your [tibula-fibula] and then I’m bow legged so you’re just going over years, years, years of grinding,” he said.

“And then last year I popped the root of my cartilage so the whole medial side is just kind of like ‘Alright we run, alright my knee blows up, alright let’s go in the pool?’ I hated that. I don’t like that.”

The 2020 season in particular was a challenging one for the veteran wide receiver. After already undergoing shoulder and knee procedures during the offseason, he needed surgery on his knee again in late October. While he did attempt to return later during the regular season, Edelman was eventually shut down for good — all while also having dealt with a stint on the Coronavirus reserve list.

With the knee reportedly still bothering him, Edelman preferred retirement over continuing his career as a little-used utility player.

“I need to be in. I need to be banging my head. I need to go block the force. I need to go hit a linebacker. I need to get smacked over the middle, because that stuff got me going,” he said. “That’s what made me fired up and like, ‘Let’s go play! Let’s go dance! Let’s do this! We’re going to be here all night!’ If I can’t do it all night, I’ve got to hang them up.”

The potential outlook of being moved into such a role contributed to his decision to hang up his cleats, but so did the response from his knee. As he pointed out, putting the time and effort in but still be a sub-100-percent player was no longer worth it.

“I don’t want to put that product out there, that’s not me. I respect the game too much. I don’t want to look like an old guy because I know the level I played at for a long time. I don’t feel like doing that, and it’s going to be a hassle: I can’t practice every day, the knee,” he said.

“I’m a practice player. You gain your confidence through practice, at least I always did. I practiced hard, always. I’m fighting, we’re over here battling, we’re talking s--t in practice all day long. If I can’t do that and I don’t feel those ‘alpha’ vibes and one-on-ones and drills, I’m starting to look like I’m not the guy that can do it, like, the baddest, then I’m out. I can’t do it, I won’t do it.”

Despite speculation that he might join former Patriots teammates Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski in Tampa Bay one day, Edelman is therefore now off to retirement.