Patriots

Edelman showing toughness as a returner

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Edelman showing toughness as a returner

FOXBORO -- On Sunday, special teams coach Scott O'Brien was asked what qualities make up a good punt returner. The first he named was toughness.

"It's like having to run through a door and you don't know what's at the other end," he said.

The metaphor could be applied to Julian Edelman's NFL career.

A college quarterback, he became a receiver in the pros. Last year, his third, he had just four catches, playing most snaps as a defensive back instead. He should at least have 'D' off his plate to start 2012, as a source says the plan for Edelman is "all offense."

Still, his most consistent progression might be in the return game.

"He's like a lot of examples through the history of the National Football League," said O'Brien. "Had no experience doing it, had some natural instincts, pretty good ball skills.

"But there is a learning process with all returners, no matter what experience they've had in the past because of the schemes and the coverage principles that we have to deal with here. It becomes a learning process of how they do things besides just the physical skills they do have."

Not just any talented player can step in on returns. Aaron Hernandez botched a fair catch on Friday. Pat Chung misjudged one -- fielding a punt near his own 2-yard line -- during minicamp.

Edelman said special teams work takes patience. Even in the offseason, even on his own time.

"I do find punters though, wherever I'm at. When I was in Los Angeles I found this kid and he would punt the ball to me Tuesdays and Thursdays. There's little drills that you can do where you're throwing towels, tennis balls, whiffle balls, just to get your vision where it needs to be. I'd have a buddy out there who'll try to run and put pressure on me."

O'Brien sees Edelman's biggest progression in field awareness. It's a big step forward for the 26-year old, just not the last step.

"This will be my fourth year -- not that Ive played in a lot of games and not that Im where I want to be, and I have a long way to go -- but anytime you get a lot of reps at something, youre naturally going to feel a little more comfortable with it," he said. "Were going in the direction we want to."

Overall team improvement is needed.

New England's 21.4-yard kick return average in 2011 ranked 29th in the league. Edelman returned 12 of the 46 team attempts. As the Patriots have rotated various guys in for reps since minicamp -- Donte' Stallworth, Deion Branch, Wes Welker, Danny Woodhead, Devin McCourty, Chung -- competition could heat up in search for the right fit.

Edelman? He'll keep hanging tough.

"I'm confident, but never comfortable."

Raiders' Marshawn Lynch suspended game for shoving official

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Raiders' Marshawn Lynch suspended game for shoving official

NEW YORK - Oakland running back Marshawn Lynch was suspended for one game without pay by the NFL on Friday for shoving a game official during the Raiders' victory over Kansas City on Thursday night.

Lynch was ejected from the game after he shoved line judge Julian Mapp.

The scuffle started when Oakland quarterback Derek Carr was hit late on a run by Kansas City's Marcus Peters midway through the second quarter. Raiders offensive linemen Kelechi Osemele and Donald Penn immediately confronted Peters, and Lynch sprinted onto the field from the bench to join the fray. Mapp tried to break up the fight, but Lynch pushed him and grabbed his jersey. Lynch also got a personal foul.

NFL vice president of football operations Jon Runyan wrote a letter to Lynch, saying:

"You made deliberate physical contact with one of our game officials as he was diffusing an active confrontation between players. You were disqualified for your inappropriate and unsportsmanlike actions. Your conduct included pushing the game official and grabbing his jersey. ... You were not directly involved in the active confrontation that the game official was attempting to diffuse, nor were you a participant in the play that initiated the confrontation. You were the only player from either team who ran from the sideline to midfield to insert himself into a situation in which he was not directly involved."

Lynch will be eligible to return to Oakland's active roster on Oct. 30, the day after the Raiders' game against the Buffalo Bills.

Lynch finished the game with two carries for 9 yards.

The Raiders rallied to win 31-30 on a touchdown pass by Carr on the final play, and Lynch was in the locker room after the game congratulating his teammates.

Lynch came out of retirement this season and was traded from Seattle to the Raiders. Lynch said he wanted to make a comeback so he could give something back to his hometown of Oakland before the Raiders move to Las Vegas in 2020.

Lynch has rushed for 266 yards and two touchdowns in seven games.

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