FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Julian Edelman went from being one of the younger New England receivers to a seasoned veteran.
All it took was one year.
Edelman, who signed a one-year deal in the offseason but opened training camp on the active/physically unable to perform list, was medically cleared to return and practiced Thursday with the Patriots for the first time since fracturing his right foot Dec. 4, 2012 at Miami.
Edelman, a fifth-year receiver, appeared to make it through the two-hour session without any setbacks. He ran sprints, caught passes and even returned a punt in his shoulder pads and helmet.
The only issue, Edelman said, was fatigue.
“The duration of practice,” he said. “These guys are in shape out here, running around with all this fast-tempo stuff. The train’s moving and I’ve got to catch up.”
Edelman underwent a procedure on his injured foot in the offseason, sidelining him longer than he would have liked. Yet he was around the team as much as possible, attending meetings, working with trainers and putting in the work necessary to return to the field.
“You’re around the facility and you see all your teammates out there having fun, training camp, guys developing, the team — it was great to be out there and see faces,” he said. “(I’m) just focused on coming out here, getting the feet down, running around on the grass, having fun and playing football.”
Edelman’s return was welcomed by quarterback Tom Brady, especially since his top five targets from last season are no longer with the team or are injured.
“Tom Brady’s Tom Brady,” Edelman said. “It’s more of me having to work on what I have to work on. The ball’s going to be there.”
It should be headed in Edelman’s direction more this season after a decent effort last year. Edelman hauled in 21 catches for 235 yards and three touchdowns before missing the final four regular-season games.
But he’s now looking at nearly an entirely new cast alongside him.
At 27, Edelman now is one of the elder statesmen in the passing game and with five rookies among the 12 receivers in camp, his role is certain to change.
“If they ever have a question, they always ask,” he said of the younger players. “I try to help them out as much as possible.”
Coach Bill Belichick knows Edelman has a long way to go before making an impact.
“He wasn’t able to do much, and he hasn’t done anything in camp other than work individually with the trainers and stuff. He watches and goes to meetings but he can’t participate in anything. I certainly don’t think it puts him ahead,” Belichick said. “We’ve got other guys that are out there working, playing, practicing.
“He’s got some ground to make up. We’ll see how it goes.”
Edelman declined to speculate on the possibility of playing a bigger role in the offense. He’s simply concentrating on making the team.
“I’m just trying to work on my fundamentals, develop my game individually so I can help contribute to this team,” he said. “Obviously it’s new right now, so I definitely have to get my legs under me, work my way in and try to earn a spot.”
PANTHERS: Carolina released veteran offensive lineman Geoff Hangartner, paving the way for Garry Williams to take over as the starting right guard.
Coach Ron Rivera said the move was made so the team could focus on developing its young guards, particularly Williams and rookie Edmund Kugbila.
EAGLES: The team is setting up receiver Riley Cooper with sensitivity training after he was caught on video making a racial slur.
Cooper apologized profusely Wednesday after a video of him using the N-word at a Kenny Chesney concert last month surfaced on the Internet. The Eagles immediately fined him and the league plans no further discipline.
DOLPHINS: Receivers Brian Hartline and Mike Wallace continue to be slowed by injuries, though both said they hope to play Sunday in the Hall of Fame Game.
Hartline returned to practice on a limited basis, taking part only in some individual drills. He wore a compression sleeve around his left calf.
SEAHAWKS: Coach Pete Carroll said receiver Percy Harvin faces a long rehab process after having surgery to repair his injured hip.
BOBBY CRESPINO, a tight end who played for the New York Giants for five years staring in 1964, died at 75 in Atlanta following a lengthy illness.
COLTS: Indianapolis waived Baylor guard Robert Griffin and injured linebacker Scott Lutrus.
VIKINGS: Offensive tackle DeMarcus Love was suspended without pay for four games for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
CHIEFS: Kansas City signed cornerback Kamaal McIlwain and offensive tackle Mike Tepper to provide depth in training camp.
49ERS: Linebacker Patrick Willis wore a black cast around the base of his right hand and wrist, and didn’t participate in practice.