FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Julian Edelman was eligible to return to Patriots practice Wednesday, but the wide receiver wasn’t present on a frigid afternoon.

Though Edelman was placed on injured reserve after undergoing knee surgery last month, it sounds like he’s still on track to return this season. Asked about Edelman and rookie offensive lineman Justin Herron – who did return to practice Wednesday – Coach Bill Belichick lumped the two together and said they’ve progressed positively.

“I think we’ll do what we would normally do in that situation, and that’s to work toward that goal (of being activated), but not start it until we’re sure the player is ready to start,” Belichick said on a video conference call Wednesday morning. “So, we’ll warm them up inside, see how they feel and put them through the part of their rehab and just see where they are, where we think they are, where they feel they are relative to starting the clock on them practicing.

“Neither player has had a setback. They’ve both progressed in a positive direction. It’s just really a question of whether they’re ready or not, and is that today, is it tomorrow, is it next week. I’m not sure what the time frame is on that, but I think they’re all moving in the right direction and the decisions really on this, before we start the clock, we just want to make sure that they’re confident and we’re confident that they’re ready for participation in the next stage of their return to play.”

Edelman underwent knee surgery in late October for a chronic injury. Herron suffered an ankle injury in a loss to the 49ers on Oct. 25.

Once a player on IR returns to practice, he is officially designated to return and must be activated to the 53-man roster within three weeks. If the player is not activated, he returns to the injured reserve list for the remainder of the season. The three-week clock does not start until a player participates in his first practice after landing on IR.


All 53 players on the active roster were at Wednesday’s practice, but there was plenty of movement on the practice squad.

Tight end Jake Burt returned – he’d been on the practice squad IR – and defensive tackle Nick Thurman was back after being released, while wide receivers Isaiah Zuber and Mason Kinsey weren’t spotted during the media window.

AFTER INITIALLY being left off the NFL’s Pro Bowl ballot, cornerback J.C. Jackson was added Wednesday at the request of the Patriots.

Jackson leads the NFL with six interceptions. The league said nominees are the team’s decision, and a Patriots spokesman explained the team’s initial thought process to USA Today’s Henry McKenna.

“We listed the two cornerbacks who have started the most games at cornerback and who have the longest tenure, Jason McCourty (9) and Stephon Gilmore (6). If we could list a third CB, we would have listed J.C. Jackson (4) or Jonathan Jones (6), but you asked to list the 11 defensive starters.”

Rookie linebacker Anfernee Jennings, who has started only two games, was removed from the Pro Bowl ballot to make room for Jackson.


Jackson has played more snaps (82%) than any other Patriots cornerback this season. He has an interception in five straight games – a franchise record – and is also among the league leaders in fumble recoveries (3) and passes defended (11).

Jackson has been tasked with tougher assignments since Gilmore went down with a knee injury. After playing well against Stefon Diggs in Buffalo, Jackson said it proved he could be a No. 1 corner in this league.

“I mean, of course,” Jackson replied. “Why not?”

The third-year corner isn’t lacking in confidence.

“I mean, I’m a playmaker just like (Diggs is) a playmaker,” he said.

And Jackson has certainly earned the confidence of his teammates, too.

“We have as much confidence in J.C. as anybody on this team,” Devin McCourty said. “I mean, he leads the team in interceptions. The guy is a ball magnet every time he’s out there. He just continues to get better as a young player. And it’s like all of us, we’ve all gotta be more consistent out there, but you talk about confidence, there’s not a player in our secondary I have more confidence in when we go out there.”

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