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Patriots place Julian Edelman on IR

Julian Edelman returned a fumble for a touchdown during the first half against the Jets Nov. 22.

Bill Kostroun/AP

Julian Edelman returned a fumble for a touchdown during the first half against the Jets Nov. 22.

The Patriots might be headed to the playoffs for the eighth time in nine seasons, but they’ll participate in the postseason without Julian Edelman.

Edelman, who recently scored four touchdowns in a two-game stretch and is second in the NFL with a 15.5-yard average on punt returns, was placed on injured reserve Tuesday, two days after suffering a foot injury against the Dolphins. The move ends the season for Edelman, who has been with the Patriots for four years and is in the final year of the contract he signed as a rookie.

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“He’s worked hard. Julian is a solid, solid guy,” coach Bill Belichick said Tuesday on a conference call, before the team announced Edelman’s move to IR. “He works hard, very good conditioned athlete. He’s versatile and he’s done a number of different things for us.”

Especially recently. The injury comes at a tough time for Edelman, who had been playing his best football as a Patriot. He had a career-high 222 yards of total offense in a 59-24 win over the Colts, scoring touchdowns on a 2-yard reception and a 68-yard punt return. The next game, on Thanksgiving against the Jets, he added two more touchdowns, one receiving and another on a special-teams fumble return.

But he left the Jets game with a concussion after getting hit on an end-around rushing attempt, and did not return. He practiced in a limited capacity after the team returned from the Thanksgiving break and was listed as questionable for the Miami game. He was back on the field Sunday, though, catching one pass for 13 yards and returning two punts for 25 yards before he got hurt.

With Edelman done for the season, the Patriots announced the signing of receiver Donte’ Stallworth, who was cut by the team in training camp. Stallworth, a nine-year veteran, spent the 2007 season with the Patriots and caught 46 passes for 697 yards and three touchdowns. He’ll provide depth for a receiving corps that is now without Edelman for the rest of the season and Rob Gronkowski (forearm) for a few more weeks.

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