FOXBOROUGH — Julian Edelman has retired from football, but he’s still acting like a Patriot.
Asked for his thoughts on the highly anticipated Week 4 matchup between his former team and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Edelman initially kept his sights set on Week 3.
“I’m certainly excited to see the team this week,” he said Thursday afternoon. “I’m looking forward to this week and how they do against New Orleans. I’ll think about that after this.”
The Patriots have never been known to look beyond the upcoming game. And while Edelman may have tried to stick to the rules, he couldn’t help but acknowledge the excitement surrounding the return of quarterback Tom Brady, his teammate for 12 years and still a close friend.
“It’s going to be electric,” Edelman said. “It’s going to be a crazy week.”
Edelman, who hung up his cleats in April, said he does not know if he will be in Foxborough to watch Brady, tight end Rob Gronkowski, and the reigning Super Bowl champions take on coach Bill Belichick, rookie quarterback Mac Jones, and the Patriots.
Regardless of where he’s watching the game, Edelman’s feelings will be mixed.
“It’s definitely going to be weird,” he said. “It’s like going to a family barbecue or a basketball game, and you’re the kid that has divorced parents, and your mom and dad are there and you don’t know how they’re going to react.
“Are they going to fight? Are they not going to fight? It’s going to be interesting, but I’m excited. Who’s not excited for it? It’s going to be an exciting game.”
So, which team is he hoping comes out on top?
The Patriots of course, Edelman said, also hedging his answer by adding that he hopes Brady and Gronkowski perform well, too.
“I hope it’s just a high-scoring battle,” Edelman said. “Maybe a little Mac comes out. Who knows?”
Edelman will be in town this weekend as the Patriots will honor him during a halftime ceremony at Sunday’s game against the Saints.
The three-time Super Bowl champion hasn’t been retired for a year but a lot has changed since he left. Only 31 players on the current 53-man roster were members of the team at the end of the 2020 season. Seventeen remain from New England’s Super Bowl LIII squad.
Other major changes in recent years, besides the departures of Brady and Gronkowski, include de facto defensive coordinator Brian Flores and special teams coordinator Joe Judge becoming head coaches of the Dolphins and Giants, respectively, and director of player personnel Nick Caserio accepting a job with the Texans.
Despite the high number of new faces, Edelman still recognizes Foxborough as home.
“You know, as Coach Belichick would always say, there’s turnover on every single team,” he said. “It’s still going to feel like home because that’s where I lived — and that’s where I live. Bill’s still there, [Matthew Slater’s] still there. It’s part of the game.
“The atmosphere and the energy you feel going into Gillette, that’s going to feel like home. It would have been cool to see all those guys, but that’s just how it goes in the National Football League. You get kind of calloused to that feeling, the more years you play on one team.”
Edelman, who works as a television analyst on “Inside the NFL,” sounded intrigued and hopeful by the moves the Patriots have made. He likened the situation to when he was drafted in 2009, a time he considered to be another transition period for the franchise.
“That was almost the end of the era of the dynasty teams, you know, the Tedy Bruschis, the Rodney Harrisons, the Kevin Faulks, the Troy Browns,” said Edelman. “For a few years we kept on hearing about them, how this, how that. Then, we went on to do our thing.
“Now, it’s going to be exciting to see the future. They’re going through the same things that I had to go through. You’re going to be part of it regardless. We’ll always have a history here.”
Through two weeks, Edelman likes what he sees from the revamped group.
He shouted out Jakobi Meyers, who emerged as the team’s leading receiver last season (59 receptions, 729 yards) and has continued to step up in his role. The 24-year-old Meyers has filled Edelman’s void in the slot, but Edelman doesn’t want him to view it that way.
“To see him right now gaining confidence and becoming the player he is — blocking well, going out there, doing the dirty things you have to do as guys in that spot have done for years in this type of offense — I’m super proud of him,” Edelman said.
“I hope he continues to keep on finding his groove. That’s what I would always tell him, ‘Don’t do it like me. Don’t do it like Wes [Welker]. Don’t do it like Troy. You’re going to learn things, but put it in your way.’ He’s certainly doing that.”
Edelman also had plenty of praise for Jones.
“I know he hasn’t lit up the scoreboard and all that, but you can see baby steps are progressing,” he said. “I’m excited for the coaches and the team this year to kind of keep that going, that improvement, and see what he’s really made of. Thus far, he’s been looking good.
“There’s going to be some bumps in those roads, but we’ll see how he reacts. I like his demeanor, and I think he’s a stud. I’m looking forward to seeing him this week in person.”
As for any advice he would share with Jones?
“Worry about what you’ve got on your plate right now and really put on the blinders,” Edelman said. “I’m not much of a guy who’s like, ‘Hey, this is what you need to do.’ I’m more of the guy who’s like, ‘Hey, just literally do everything they ask you to do and put in a little more time and just see where it takes you.’ Because if you’re a baller, you’re going to make plays.”
As the Patriots continue to navigate the post-Brady era, Edelman seems optimistic about the future.
“It will be fun to see how this little garden grows,” he said. “There’s going to be a next generation.”
Nicole Yang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.