The Patriots’ worst fears were confirmed Saturday following an MRI on wide receiver Julian Edelman’s right knee.
According to a league source, Edelman suffered a season-ending injury when his leg buckled after planting his foot on his third reception of Friday night’s exhibition game against the Lions in Detroit.
Multiple reports have the injury as an ACL tear, which will require surgery. Edelman was the Patriots’ leading receiver last season (98 catches, 1,106 yards) and has long been Tom Brady’s most-trusted weapon.
“Julian is a great competitor, works hard, he’s tough, does all the things that you ask him to do. I feel badly for him of course,” coach Bill Belichick said on Saturday afternoon. “We feel badly for Julian and hope that he will have a speedy and complete recovery, but yeah, the team will have to move on, and we’ll have to compete in this season without him. It’s unfortunate, but that’s the way it is, so we’ll have to figure that out.”
Edelman started quickly against the Lions with back-to-back catch and runs of 11 and 23 yards. On his third catch, he grabbed a short Brady pass over the middle and started to weave his way upfield when the injury occurred. Edelman was wincing and grabbing behind his knee as he hit the turf at Ford Field.
The injury put a damper on what was an exceptional performance by the first-team offense, which raced to a 24-0 lead in the 30-28 win.
That offense, which scored on its first four possessions, now will have to compensate for the loss of Edelman, who had at least 92 catches in three of the last four seasons.
“There’s a personal side, you never move on,” said Belichick. “Julian will be here on a regular basis, doing his rehabilitation and so forth, so you never really move on from that standpoint. This team has to move forward with the resources that we have, and unfortunately we’ve lost one, and an important one. But as a team we still have to move forward, and that’s what we’ll do. That process has already started.”
Edelman, known for his quickness, toughness, and ability to deliver in the clutch, is a chain mover. He converted 55 catches into first downs last season and led the league with 431 receiving yards on third down.
“We’ve played together for a long time and I think there is great chemistry with what we’re doing,’’ Brady said Friday night. “He’s just an incredible player and teammate.”
The outpouring of support on social media from Edelman’s teammates, former teammates, and opponents emphasizes just how well the nine-year veteran is liked and respected across the league.
Brady, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 1 of the 2008 season, posted a photo of he and Edelman hugging after a Super Bowl victory with the caption “Gladiator.”
Fellow receiver Danny Amendola, who will be one of the players counted on to help fill Edelman’s void, tweeted a picture of them together with the caption, “Any alley, any trench, on any field . . . I fight with my brother. Always.’’
Additionally, former teammates LeGarrette Blount, Brandon LaFell, Michael Floyd, and Sebastian Vollmer tweeted well wishes.
Many opponents, including Seattle’s Richard Sherman (“I’m praying for a fast recovery . . . Hard worker and great competitor”), Arizona’s Tyrann Mathieu (“Hate to see guys go down, especially ACLs. Praying for you homie”), and Jacksonville’s Shane Wynn (“Praying for a speedy recovery. I’ve heard and saw you first hand working hard”) tweeted messages of encouragement to Edelman.