Julian Edelman is 34 years old.
Long gone are the days of the baby-faced rookie seventh-round pick trying to crack the roster. His long, flowing locks from nearly a decade ago are but a memory. Matthew Slater and Brian Hoyer are the only people on the Patriots roster who are, by mere months, older than Edelman.
"Wiley ol' vet now, I guess," he told reporters during a WebEx video conference call on Monday.
Download the MyTeams app for the latest Patriots news and analysis
That may mean that Edelman has to spend a little extra time taking care of his body. It means that he'll be looked to as one of the leaders of an offense that just lost its longest-tenured captain to Tampa Bay earlier this offseason.
But it also means that Edelman, now in his 12th NFL season, is a relatively reliable talent scout. Particularly when it comes to quarterback play. He knows what he's looking at. And when it comes to the new passer signed by the Patriots just over a month ago, Cam Newton, Edelman likes what he sees.
"He's a specimen for sure. When you first meet him," Edelman said, "just his stature . . . The dude is large. Put together well. And he's got great energy. He's got a great energy about himself. I was really impressed with his work ethic and his mindset."
First impressions matter, particularly for football players. It's a physical game played by humans who understand power, leverage and the importance of size. Even when those things apply to quarterbacks. And especially if the quarterback's game hinges in part on the threat he poses to opposing defenders as a runner.
That's Newton, whose ability to move — and to lower his shoulder into linebackers and defensive backs — is key to the 6-foot-5, 245-pounder's on-the-field effectiveness.
Newton's frame and athletic ability that he brings to New England is something that offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels hasn't had behind center. Combine those traits with a loaded résumé compiled over the last decade in Carolina and at Auburn, and you can understand why a player as experienced as Edelman — someone who worked alongside the most accomplished quarterback of all time — might be enamored by Newton's arrival.
"You have Hoyer, who has played here," Edelman said. "He's been in the system. You have Stidham, who has a year under his belt. And you have Cam. This guy is a heck of a football player. This isn't his first year playing football. This guy is a former MVP who has played in a lot of big games.
"I have a lot of faith in our coaching staff — Josh and (quarterbacks coach) Jedd (Fisch) and the offensive guys — along with some of the veteran players, to go out and do our best to try to prepare everyone the best we can. That's what this season is going to be about. [It's] about adjusting and overcoming certain situations everyone has to deal with. We have a long road ahead of us, but if we just keep on bringing our hard hat and lunch pail to work, and coming in with a purpose, that's usually when good things happen."
Edelman, who worked out with Newton at UCLA prior to returning to Foxboro for workouts that began last week, wasn't the only Patriots veteran asked about Newton on Friday. Lawrence Guy, who tried to put the clamps on Newton in Week 4 of 2017 when the Panthers won at Gillette Stadium, was equally interested to see what the 2015 MVP can bring to the club.
"You get a person like that — big body, mobile quarterback — and you're like, 'This is going to be exciting when we get to practice,' " Guy said. "The dynamic he brings into the locker room, and everybody embracing him, is the best part. We have a unique team. Once he came in, he fit right in. I think Hoy and Stidham did welcome him with open arms, and them coming onto the field, and hearing them talk, and you can see them throwing different plays and aspects out. It's going to be one of those things that we can't wait to get the pads on to see the playbook come to life."
It'll certainly look a little different than it did over the last seven years or so once Edelman established himself as one of Tom Brady's go-to targets. Maybe Edelman will never be able to rediscover the same kind of chemistry he had with his last quarterback. But, with time, who knows? Sparks could fly as he and the rest of the Patriots offense look to rebound.
“That takes time and that takes reps and that takes experience,” Edelman said. “Right now, we’re really focused on getting our condition, brushing up our minds on the material our coaches are giving us, and learning each other . . . The on-the-field stuff, that comes through reps. That comes through time. That comes through meetings and just sitting and being around each other. That’s what we’re going to try to do.”