This story was originally published July 28, 2018.
FOXBOROUGH — Patriots receiver Julian Edelman said Saturday he holds himself accountable for the positive drug test in which he is suspended for the first month of the NFL season.
“It’s disappointing with the penalty and the findings,” Edelman said after practice at Patriots training camp. “And you know, I’m definitely accountable for that.”
Edelman was given a four-game suspension in June for a violation of the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. His appeal was denied. Edelman can participate fully in training camp, which he has been doing, but will be banned from all team activities from the start of the season until Week 5.
Edelman wouldn’t say what substance he tested positive for, citing NFL policy, but he said he’d be more careful about what he puts in his body in the future.
“I’ve got to follow the protocols a little better and make sure this never happens again,” he said. “I’m accountable for my actions, and ultimately my focus now is getting my knee right and going out and trying to play football at a high level.”
By the time he returns, Edelman will have missed 23 consecutive games. He missed all of last season after tearing his ACL in a preseason game. On Saturday, when the Patriots put pads on for the first time during training camp, it was the first taste of real contact Edelman had felt in 11 months.
“It was a hell of a year to just sit and watch your team go to a Super Bowl and play without you and you’re on the couch,” Edelman said, his voice cracking a couple times in a way that sounded like he still couldn’t quite believe it. “And you know, it was tough.”
Typically, it takes at least six months for an athlete to return after an ACL tear and surgery, but it can take much longer to return to full form.
Cyrus Jones, who tore his ACL and partially tore his meniscus a week after Edelman’s injury last year, is still on PUP, and Jones (24) is eight years younger than Edelman.
Edelman has been practicing without a boot, as he did during spring workouts. He’s worked five days in a row now, he said, but has a lot of work to do to rebuild his confidence in his body, particularly the cutting ability that allows him to create separation and makes him an elite receiver.
“That’s where I’m at,” he said. “I’d tell you I feel great right now, and I don’t know how tomorrow feels. You know? You know how it goes. It was a major surgery and we all know that. I’m confident enough to go out and compete and that’s the exciting thing about it.”
Lucien feels at home
Wide receiver Devin Lucien was on his way to Los Angeles International Airport last Sunday, destined for a workout in Green Bay, when his agent called. The message: If the Packers don’t sign you, New England wants to work you out.
Then fate intervened.
“I get to the airport and Green Bay sent me the wrong itinerary for my flight,” Lucien said Friday. “So I called my agent back. It’s a funny story. I called my agent back, I’m trying to talk to him about my flight: ‘They messed up my flight,’ trying to make sure I get to the workout.
“He’s like, ‘I’m on the phone with Nick [Caserio]. I can’t talk to you right now.’ So he hangs up with me. I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to get to Green Bay. And then my agent calls me back and says, ‘New England just wants to sign you.’ ”
A supposed 3:50 p.m. departure for Green Bay turned into a 11:55 p.m. red eye to New England, where Lucien signed the next day.
Lucien was drafted by the Patriots in the seventh round in 2016. He spent his rookie year on the practice squad and had a good training camp in New England last year until he got cleated during a preseason game against the Giants and needed stitches on the skin covering his Achilles’ tendon. The Patriots cut him, and Lucien bounced around the league on practice squads from Indianapolis to Kansas City to Houston to Tampa Bay.
He never found a permanent home or stayed somewhere long enough to feel comfortable in a team’s system, and also suffered a physical setback when he got an infection from the stitches while he was with the Colts, who put him on IR and then released him.
That makes the Patriots the only team Lucien feels comfortable with.
“The only place I really felt settled and was settled was here,” Lucien said. “Honestly, I was on the practice squad when we won the Super Bowl. And then last year I was here and I had a solid camp up until I got hurt. I’m just trying to repeat that if I can.
“It’s like when you meet your first love. You always remember that first love. I haven’t had that many problems with the playbook. I think the biggest thing is getting back in Patriots camp shape. That’s what I’m trying to do now.”
Lucien will have a tough road to making the roster as one of the last guys into camp, but he’s made a few noticeable catches in the early days.
Inside job for Britt
Receiver Kenny Britt was the only player not spotted at Saturday’s training camp session, but his absence was planned and not due to any setback, according to a league source.
Britt was at Gillette Stadium, but working inside with trainers. The separate session had been planned days in advance as a means of getting Britt, who began training camp on the PUP list because of a balky hamstring, up and running so he can return to practice soon.
Players on training camp PUP can be activated at any time, and Britt is expected to return to practice within the next few days.