The way Julian Edelman’s 2016 season ended – with a Super Bowl victory and a catch for the ages that helped secure it – belied the real struggle the wide receiver had in getting ready for 2016.
There were times of crisis in the spring and summer of 2016 when the foot he broke halfway through the 2015 season - and needed two surgeries to repair - left him at wit’s end. He had a sense of his football mortality at that time and, as he told me this summer for his memoir “Relentless,” which is due out in October, Edelman went to great lengths to get some mental peace.
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Now, with a torn ACL, a lost season and months of rehab ahead of him, Edelman finds himself back in a spot where he’ll have to summon even more resolve to get back to being what he’s been since 2013: the Patriots most reliable and potent offensive weapon.
It’s got to be daunting for Edelman but he at least has the security provided by the two-year, $11 million extension he signed over the summer. That deal, which expires after the 2019 season, includes $7M guaranteed.
That doesn’t mean Edelman’s future with the team is necessarily secure. He will be 32 entering the 2018 season and his rehab will take months once surgery is performed. It’s far too early to set timetables, but given the commitment to training and conditioning Edelman’s shown in the past – he’s broken both feet and had a total of four surgeries on them but has still been one of the NFL’s most productive receivers in the past four seasons – it’s not unrealistic to foresee him being able to begin 2018.
Edelman’s overcome quite a bit to get where he’s gotten. He’s stared over the ledge a few times. A converted college quarterback (you may have heard), he was a bit player for the team until 2013 when he exploded for 105 catches and 1,056 yards. And he did that while playing on a one-year deal for the veteran’s minimum.
He’s used to being counted out. One of the titles he proposed for his book was: “Bet Against Me.” Since he was growing up in Redwood City, California, where he was a 4-foot-11, 95-pound freshman running back at Woodside High, Edelman’s heard doubts. He told me over and over again this summer that doubts are his “fuel.”
There will be doubts now. In the coming weeks, Edelman may feel them creep in as well. It would be natural. But his personal history indicates the doubts won’t last. He’s been counted out before and proven plenty of people wrong.