Friday, March 7, 2014
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - Julian Edelman doesn't want to be the second coming of Wes Welker.
He wants Welker, the New England Patriots' wide receiver who is returning from a brutal knee injury, to be Wes Welker, to be running pass patterns and making catches.
Edelman, a second-year receiver for the Patriots, would like people to stop comparing him to Welker, who has more receptions (346) than any other receiver in the NFL since he joined the Patriots in 2007.
"It's unfair to him," said Edelman after New England's 27-24 victory against New Orleans in the exhibition opener Thursday night. "He's the best slot (receiver) in the game. I learn everything (from him). I learn how to be a professional. I learn how to prepare. I learn how to run routes.
"It was a blessing to come here and sit behind a guy like that, and watch him practice and run routes and how he prepares. Wes has been a huge part of helping me develop and still is. He's out there and he's running routes and I'm still learning things watching his film. It's great to have him around."
And the Patriots are learning it's great to have Edelman around. As Welker continues his remarkable recovery from last January's devastating left knee injury -- he tore both the ACL and MCL in the Patriots' regular-season finale at Houston -- Edelman continues to make strides.
Welker, who has been cleared medically to practice, didn't play Thursday, and Edelman again put on a show. He caught all six passes thrown his way for 90 yards and returned two punts for 43 yards, including a 40-yarder that set up the game's first score.
Throughout the night, he made Saints defenders miss as he escaped from some precarious situations, where it looked like he had no escape.
"That's what every guy should be (doing) when they have the ball in their hands," he said. "That's what we get paid to do, right? Make guys miss."
Someone suggested to him that Edelman looked like a different player on the field this year as opposed to his rookie season.
"I'm more familiar with the offense but I don't feel like a different player," he said. "Any time I have the ball I'm going to run hard."
The Patriots are fortunate to have Edelman. He was the 232nd player selected in the 2009 draft, picked in the seventh round. And he was a quarterback at Kent State, where he threw for 4,997 yards and 30 touchdowns, while rushing for 2,664 yards and 23 scores.
His transformation into a dangerous NFL slot receiver has been, well, astounding.
"For a guy who had never played receiver until a little over a year ago, he does a lot of things well," said Patriots Coach Bill Belichick, who seldom throws any praise at any player. "And he's still learning and he's still getting better and he still works hard. He made some plays (Thursday) with the ball in his hands."
That Edelman has made the transition look easy isn't so surprising to the Patriots. He fits their mold.
"He works hard," said Belichick. "He pays attention to little things. Julian is one of those players that when you ask him to work on something, he really puts everything into it and tries to do what the coaches ask him to do and improve. He's improved steadily since he's been here."
Safety Patrick Chung simply called Edelman, "a baller." that, he meant that Edelman can play.
"He's tough, he runs hard," said Chung. "He has that little- man syndrome but he's good."
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