FOXBORO -- When Troy Brown was tapped to play cornerback in 2004, the way Julian Edelman was this season, he didn't get to wade slowly over to the other side of the ball. He had to dive, head-first, into defense.
"From the moment I was told, I left my locker and went straight to the practice field," Brown said. "I didn't fully, really understand all the concepts, but I understood basic stuff. So I went out and did one-on-one's and I did seven-on-seven with the 'D'."
Here he stopped. Grinned.
"It wasn't pretty."
Edelman describes the move the same way. It's not transition so much as addition. It's just more of everything, Edelman says. He comes in to Gillette and gets an early scouting report on offense. Then he works with defensive coaches. Then he goes back to offense.
He names the Patriots' constant use of situational football as his best asset. Even though Edelman never worked with the defense in the past, he's been on the field with it as a scout team slot receiver. He would have gone up against the starters and seen exactly how the Patriots nickel packages were used.
"The coaches help you during practices," Edelman explained, "making situations as hard as they can to try to slow down the game and let you play fast. By no means have I made every tackle or covered every guy. I've got to work on those plays."
Some of those early full-speed practice might not have been, as Brown would say, too "pretty."
But the pressure isn't unmanageable. Brown said the coaches know that having a guy split time between offense and defense might mean he isn't razor sharp on both sides -- even if they don't say it. They might not say anything at all.
"Nobody ever really gave me exact expectations," said Brown. "As far as meetings and that type of thing, I was told, Go to the defensive meeting today,' and that's what I did. And I was already familiar with the offensive terminology, I just had to make sure I had all my notes on that stuff. Then I'd get my reps in."
The support of teammates and coaches can't be understated. When Edelman was asked who's been the biggest help in managing his defensive workload, he rambled on like a first-time Oscar winner.
"Coach JB -- Josh Boyer -- Coach Matty P. Matt Patricia, it's been Coach Belichick, it's been defensive captain Jerod Mayo, Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung's been out there helping me. Even Nate Jones, he's helped me with little things."
There are little things. There are big things.
Edelman doesn't have bad habits to break (leading with his helmet, for example) and his shoulders aren't banged up from absorbing countless opponents. He gets low on targets and wraps them up. He hits hard.
Brown is impressed by Edelman's ability to chase down plays or limit yards after a catch. So maybe the new defensive back is missing some jam, some reroute. Those aspects of his technique can be practiced if the Patriots really want to make something of this.
At least one person thinks it can work.
"I wish I had started playing defense earlier in my career. I had fun doing what I did, but I probably could have made my career just a little bit more...." Brown mingles his search for the right word with a laugh. "...A little more fun."
"If I was able to do that when I was younger, it would have been awesome. It's actually a great opportunity for Edelman, if he could find out a way to do both of those things well."
Edelman has 18 combined tackles in 94 snaps as a defensive back (five games, according to ESPN.com). Not bad for a stop-gap guy. He has none of the interceptions that were so impressive about Brown, but again, that could come. It all depends on how he's used.
"With the offense the way it's been, you've either got to get better or you've got to expand," said Edelman. "I've tried to do both and the coaches have given me an opportunity to do something different. All I can ask for is opportunity."
The Patriots hope giving Edelman a chance doesn't turn out to be the easy part.