Ex-New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman recently appeared on the I AM ATHLETE podcast, and during the hour-long discussion spoke about a variety of issues. Comeback rumors, his Hall of Fame case, and his definition of the so-called “Patriot Way” are just there of the topics raised during his talk with fellow former NFL players Brandon Marshall and Adam “Pacman” Jones as well as former NBA player Nick Young.
The whole episode is worth taking a look at, but here are our main takeaways from it related to Edelman and the Patriots.
Edelman does not see himself as a Hall of Famer
To start the show, “Pacman” Jones listed what Edelman accomplished during his 12-year career in the NFL. Impressive postseason receiving statistics, three Super Bowl rings and one Super Bowl MVP award were mentioned, leading to a logical follow-up question: Is Edelman worthy of Pro Football Hall of Fame recognition?
The 36-year-old himself does not think so.
“Number-wise, no,” Edelman said. “Everyone talks about the regular season, and I get it. I didn’t have regular season numbers.”
While Edelman finished his career as one of the most productive postseason wide receivers in NFL history, his regular season numbers are less impressive. He caught 620 passes for 6,822 yards and 36 touchdowns in 137 games.
Edelman will ‘probably’ not make a comeback but leaves the door ajar
One of the biggest topics, and one that was mentioned on several occasions during the hour-long interview, was Edelman’s status as a retiree. He himself just recently stirred up some comeback rumors when he mentioned that he was “staying in shape.” He also did not rule anything out during his appearance on I AM ATHLETE.
However, it sure sounds like he is not actively working on a comeback at the moment.
“Everyone here knows what it takes to play at a high level, especially in football,” Edelman said. “The amount of work I have to put in my body to train, to make me confident, that’s so much for the output that I’m getting out of my body because of injuries, my knees, this, that. I’m not getting the same output. So, now that I’ve taken a year off and I’m not loading my body, like, compound and load every single day, my body feels pretty straight. I’ve gone and dabbled out and go run routes.
“But then you see when you run routes, the next day you’re like, ‘Alright, I’m not too bad.’ But I’m like already 10,000 reps behind, I feel in my mind. So, then, to answer your question: probably not, but I will probably start training a little more and more just to put some data in my brain to see if I can do it. I’m not going to put myself out there to look silly, get strapped up. I’m not going to go out there where I can get open on one play. I want to go out and if I want to ball, I have to go out and consistently do it time and time again.”
The conversation also included his potential landing spot in case of a comeback. While joining former Patriots teammate Tom Brady with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was mentioned as a possibility, Edelman himself would rather see himself return to his old stomping grounds up Route 1.
“If I would ever come back, I would come back as a Pat, probably. Be part of that,” he said. “It’s a little bit of everything. I have an opportunity there. I have a life there. That’s my home now. My whole adult life I’ve been in Boston. I know Boston better than I know San Francisco. I know the Cape better than I know Lake Tahoe, and that’s where I grew up.”
Despite Edelman leaving the door ajar for a potential comeback at one point, he later acknowledged that he has nothing left to play for.
“The real real is, like, I’m done,” he said. “I feel like you go back and forth because I left everything on the field, I really ain’t got nothing else to play for.”
Why Edelman is worried about New England’s defense
A former college quarterback, Edelman was asked about the position as well, specifically Tom Brady’s heir in New England. Entering his second year in the system, Mac Jones will have an opportunity to establish himself as a bona fide franchise QB.
However, Edelman is worried about him. Not due to his own abilities as a passer, but rather the overall construction of the team around him.
“If he strengthens up and he uses last year for the starting point, and he doesn’t smell his own roses, and he goes out and he gets better this year — because we ultimately see our biggest leaps from that Year 1 to Year 2 for that quarterback — I think he can be a good quarterback,” he said.
“He’s not there quite yet, but you have to look at the Patriots back in 2001-2004. Those first three Super Bowls, they weren’t tossing the ball out of the stadium. It was a defensive-built team. That’s the thing that I’m worried about with the Patriots: is their defense going to be there to allow Mac to have this slow progression into becoming what he becomes?”
The Patriots lost some long-time cornerstones on the defensive side of the ball over the last few months. Pro Bowl cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson departed within half a year of one another, while veteran linebackers Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins are still unaccounted for in free agency. Additionally, fellow starter Kyle Van Noy was cut and is now with the Los Angeles Chargers.
Coaching is not in Edelman’s future
Edelman spent a lot of time talking about the Patriots offense and plays that he and Tom Brady were working on in the offseason. At one point, the conversation therefore shifted to him becoming a football coach.
Edelman, however, will not go down that road.
“Too many hours. Too many f---ing hours,” he said. “You think players have hours, these coaches — I’ve seen cots in offices. These dudes are sleeping in there. I cannot be a coach.”
Edelman mentioned that the nature of the game form a preparatory perspective makes coaching an undesirable job from his perspective. With comeback rumors swirling around, there is at least one door that can definitively be closed.
Edelman named his top Patriots receivers
Edelman retired during the 2021 offseason as one of the most productive wide receivers the Patriots organization had ever seen. Naturally, he was asked to name the other top receivers in franchise history in his opinion.
He mentioned four: Stanley Morgan, Randy Moss, Troy Brown and Wes Welker.
“Stanley, I mean he’s a Hall of Famer,” he said. “You got Randy, he was there for a cup of coffee; he was there fore some years and he broke the [single season touchdown] record there. I was only with him for a cup of coffee, I rephrase that. ... You got Troy Brown, Wes Welker. Wes Welker, that dude was a monster. He developed a lot of this offense.”
Out of the four players Edelman mentioned, only one was able to win a Super Bowl in his career: Brown, who won three of them during his time with the Patriots in the early 2000s. Morgan, Moss and Welker — all of whom Hall of Fame-caliber talents — went ringless through their immensely productive careers.
What the Patriot Way is for Edelman
The so-called Patriot Way has been the subject of debate ever since the organization turned into the most successful of the NFL’s salary cap era, and especially after Tom Brady’s departure in March 2020. Edelman also shared his own definition, and it starts with holding everybody in the building accountable and to a high standard.
“I think it roots from really just being accountable,” Edelman said. “When I got there, you had Tedy Bruschi, Tom Brady, Kevin Faulk, Troy Brown was always around. You had these guys that held you accountable. If you weren’t going up to their standards... like, the leaders are always working their asses off. They’re setting examples.
“Then you got young bucks, and if they’re not putting in that same effort, that same standard, they’re going to be humiliated and they probably won’t be there because they have that much say. There’s a locker room full of guys that know how to keep a good locker room and build that team. I would say, just accountability from top to bottom.”
Edelman went on to mention the work ethic of head coach Bill Belichick and legendary quarterback Tom Brady, which set the tone — and in Belichick’s case still does — for everybody else at One Patriot Place.