Patriots hope that Julian Edelman can return this season
Compared with some of the thunderous hits and brutally hard tackles Julian Edelman absorbs game in and game out, the one on which he suffered a broken left foot in the first quarter of Sunday's 27-26 win at the Meadowlands looked innocent enough.
Lined up in the slot to Tom Brady's left on third and 4 from the Giants' 26-yard line, the Patriots' leading receiver got a clean break at the snap and curled left into the flat. Edelman snagged Brady's pass, spun out of Craig Dahl's attempted tackle, and took off. He was then corralled by Jasper Brinkley, but Edelman's left foot bent awkwardly under the linebacker as they twisted to the ground.
Edelman almost immediately grabbed for his foot. He hobbled to the sideline, tossed his helmet in disgust, and was attended to by the medical staff before eventually limping to the locker room.
Edelman suffered a Jones fracture, according to a source familiar with the situation. A Jones fracture occurs at the base of the fifth metatarsal bone, the long bone on the outside of the foot that is connected to the pinky toe.
On Monday, surgery to fix the wide receiver's broken foot was performed by Dr. George Theodore at Massachusetts General Hospital. The source said the repair was straightforward. Typically, Jones fracture surgery involves the insertion of a screw into the broken bone.
Due to limited blood flow to that area of the foot, Jones fractures can take a significant amount of time to heal. The quickest anyone has returned to action from a Jones fracture is roughly six weeks.
Depending on how the healing process goes, Edelman could miss anywhere from six weeks to the rest of the season. Dez Bryant suffered a Jones fracture in the Cowboys' season opener Sept. 13 (also against the Giants) and returned to action Nov. 1.
In the NBA, Kevin Durant's 2014-15 season was derailed by a Jones fracture that required three surgeries.
Based on that timeline (though it's unknown whether the injuries are similar), it's conceivable that Edelman could return for the regular-season finale Jan. 3 in Miami.
Edelman, in a tweet Monday night, was positive: "Tough times don't last, tough people do. #gopats".
It is the second significant injury the Patriots offense has suffered in as many weeks, after electric tailback Dion Lewis was lost for the season with a torn ACL against the Redskins.
Coach Bill Belichick had no update on Edelman's status or timeline for a possible return when he spoke with reporters Monday afternoon.
"I don't have anything on him,'' he said.
Brady expressed disappointment at losing one of his most trusted targets, who was on pace to eclipse 100 catches for the second time in three seasons.
"I was certainly bummed to hear about Julian just because of how great a player he is and I just feel terrible for him,'' Brady said on his weekly Monday morning radio appearance. "It's just unfortunate to lose such a critical player. But you have to figure out different ways to get it done. Every team deals with injuries.''
Though Brady has no shortage of replacement candidates, he said stepping in for Edelman will be no easy task.
"There's nothing seamless when you lose a great player,'' he said. "When it's someone that's been the leading receiver on your team for multiple years and you lose them, it's not like you go, 'OK, well, let's just put someone else in.' He's too good of a player for that.''
Edelman leads the Patriots with 61 receptions. He is second in receiving yards with 692. Tight end Rob Gronkowski has 49 catches for 806 yards.
"[Edelman] means a whole lot to this offense,'' Gronkowski said after the game. "Hopefully he comes back ASAP.''
The offense struggled for stretches after Edelman was injured, but Belichick said after the win that the strategy remained the same.
"The game plan is the game plan,'' he said. "We can't draw up 20 new plays because something happens. Guys practice, and we have to back up every position. Every player has to be ready to go. We don't know what's going to happen in the game."
While the 5-foot-10-inch, 200-pound Edelman is out, several players will be counted on to take on bigger roles in the offense. The top candidate is Danny Amendola.
Similar in stature at 5-10, 190 pounds, Amendola also is very versatile, with lots of experience playing in the slot.
"I think they have some similarities but they have some differences, too,'' Belichick said on an afternoon radio appearance. "They're both good football players.''
Amendola (40 catches, 403 yards) had been sharing punt returning duties with Edelman and provided the Patriots with a huge spark (a la Edelman) with his 82-yarder Sunday that set up LeGarrette Blount's 1-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, cutting New York's lead to 20-17.
Others who could step up and help fill the rather large void are Keshawn Martin, Aaron Dobson, and Chris Harper.
Martin, acquired from the Texans Sept. 17, has been limited in practice with a hamstring ailment. He has six catches for 95 yards but hasn't played since the Colts game Oct. 18.
"Keshawn Martin is obviously still a good player for us. He's hopefully coming back here soon,'' Brady told WEEI.
Dobson has 12 catches for 124 yards but just four catches since his seven-catch, 87-yard effort in a Week 2 win over the Bills.
Harper, an undrafted free agent currently on the practice squad, had 15 catches for 150 yards during the preseason.