FOXBOROUGH — Julian Edelman did something Monday he rarely does — he stopped short.
The Patriots receiver didn't come out and confirm he'll return for Saturday's AFC divisional-round game after a nearly nine-week absence because of a broken left foot, but he sure sounded like a guy ready to jump back into the postseason fray.
"There's no dipping the toe here,'' said Edelman, who suffered the injury in the Week 10 win over the Giants. "It's diving right in.''
Asked if he's 100 percent healthy, Edelman said, "I can't put a percentage on it until [Saturday]. I'm feeling a day better than yesterday. It continues to get better, so that's what I can say about that. I'm feeling good. We've been working hard every day. Doing everything I can to get myself ready for the next day.''
If he's less than 100 percent, he sure doesn't look it.
Spotted during the portion of practice when media is allowed to observe, Edelman appeared to be moving at full speed while participating in warm-ups and drills.
Edelman, his familiar yellow Kent State T-shirt flapping in the wind under his uniform, was cutting crisply and snagging passes effortlessly during the shells-and-sweats workout behind Gillette Stadium.
"Jules, what do they call him — the flying squirrel? It was good to have him out there,'' said safety Patrick Chung with a big smile.
One of Tom Brady's — and the NFL's — most reliable targets, Edelman has been sorely missed. The Patriots' offense has been struggling mightily without the 5-foot-11-inch, 200-pound sparkplug. Despite missing the final seven regular-season games, Edelman finished third on the team with 61 catches and second in receiving yards (692) and touchdowns (7).
New England was 9-0 with Edelman in the lineup but stumbled to a 3-4 finish after his injury. Additionally, the Patriots scored at least 30 points six times with Edelman, but reached that number just once without him.
Edelman, who acknowledged he's "kind of my own worst enemy'' when it comes to rehabbing sensibly, said it was difficult to watch his teammates struggle down the stretch.
"Yeah, people don't realize you put a lot into this during the season and before the season — it's a 12-month job,'' he said. "I put my heart and soul into everything I do to get ready for the season and to not be able to go out and compete with the guys you work hard with every day in the spring [and] summer, it [stinks] to see that. Hopefully I can go out and help them in practice and get better each day and prepare for this week.''
When Edelman was pressed if he was anxious to get back on the field, he again sounded like a man who fully expects to be in uniform when the Chiefs come to town Saturday for the 4:35 p.m. start.
"I'm more focused than anxious,'' he said. "Every year is different, but going in [to the playoffs] you have some experience about how these games are going to be and where you should be and I'm trying to take full advantage of going out and putting myself in the best position to help the team.''
Edelman, who reportedly will wear a brace in his cleat to prevent aggravating the injury, said he had no idea how difficult it will be to knock off any rust that might exist from his extending layoff.
"We'll see,'' he said. "We're going to try to make the situation as hard as possible in practice. Our coaches will do that, our training staff will do that. We'll see where we're at."
The seven-year veteran said that if he's cleared physically, there'll be no mental stumbling block.
"I'm going to go full throttle regardless, so if it goes, it goes,'' he said. "Of course, we'll be smart. But if I suit up, we'll be all right.''
Brady indicated recently that because he threw so many balls to Edelman, they'd be able to pick up right where they left off — a theory the receiver mostly agreed with.
"We do work a lot together,'' said Edelman. "I know him and he knows me but we still have to work hard this week to make up for the ground lost, so that's what we're going to do.''
Brady has completed 69 percent of his passes with Edelman on the field and just 59.2 percent without him. Another area Edelman surely will help is on third down. The Patriots converted 50 percent of their third-down opportunities (54 of 107) with him on the field and just 31 percent (34 of 108) with him on the shelf.
Edelman said the possibility his season might be over prematurely did enter his mind.
"With an injury like that I guess,'' he said. "But the coaching staff and everyone here had faith that I could potentially help and it's good to feel that. We'll see how it goes. It's going to be tough but we worked our tail off to try and keep our conditioning up.''
Edelman had no interest in talking about the particulars of how he broke the foot. Instead, he was interested in talking about Saturday's foe.
"It's in the past, we're not going to go down the road of how it happened. It happened,'' he said. "I'm more focused on the Kansas City Chiefs and the great team that they are. It's going to be the best team we've played this year. They've won 11 straight, this team's a hot team. It shouldn't be about my foot or this and that. It should be about the Kansas City Chiefs because that's a solid football team.''
A solid team that looks like it will have to be prepared to face a rested and ready flying squirrel.