Rob Ninkovich isn't the only one who seems to be tempering expectations when it comes to Julian Edelman's return.
Bill Belichick made it seem as though the Patriots couldn't know what to expect from the receiver now in his 10th season as he makes his return from a four-game suspension.
Edelman was back at the Patriots facility on Monday and seemed in good spirits strolling through the locker room, though he did not stop to take questions from reporters.
"Good to have him back and we’ll see," Belichick said Tuesday. "I mean, we didn’t practice yesterday, so we’ll get moving on some things today in terms of the game plan and trying to get as far along on Indianapolis as we can.
"Obviously, it’s going to be a crammed course, and so we’ll just see how it all comes together. I don’t know. He hasn’t been here in a month, and it’s a short week. We’ll just have to see how things work out."
That assessment seems to be in stark contrast to what Tom Brady could gather about his most trusted wideout in their first work day back together.
"He hasn't changed a bit," Tom Brady said Monday afternoon. (See video above) "Four weeks off. He looks good.
"We've played so much football together. I really have no doubt where he's going to be and what he's capable of. He's been a great player for our team and I think everyone's excited to have him back. Anytime you add great players, it's going to help what we're doing. We all welcomed him back and he's excited and ready to go. Hopefully he can go out and play great."
But to Belichick's point, Edelman hasn't played in a regular season game since 2016. He's coming off of an ACL injury. He's 32 years old.
Ninkovich, who worked out with Edelman throughout his suspension, made it clear that he doesn't feel as though the Patriots should put too much on his shoulders in his first week back.
"I hope not . . . Why say that? I just hope that he doesn't have too much," Ninkovich said on this week's Ex-Pats Podcast. "Everyone's like, 'Julian's back! Feed him the ball!' Yeah, Julian's back. Give him the football. But let's not over-run him into the ground and overdo it when he does have an ACL last year . . . Yeah, it's been a year, but it's still an ACL just like everyone else who has an ACL. It's not easy to come back and just take a guy flying at your knees, your legs, take these hits.
"When you're coming off an ACL, you didn't really play that much, you didn't really play last year because you had an ACL, and now they're going to give you 15 balls a game? And now you're going to take all those hits and run every route?
"I hope they give him a little group of routes. Ease him in. Let him get comfortable. The Colts game will be perfect. Ease him in there . . . Give him maybe four balls. The Colts aren't very tough, I'm not worried about the Colts, and guess what? Then he's feeling good, has a little confidence and that kind of translates to Kansas City. Then give him a little bit more, then give him a little bit more. Then guess what? His plate's full. He's good."
Though Edelman's return gives Brady a much-needed trustworthy option in the passing game, and though he should take the Patriots third-down offense to new heights, it sounds as though we shouldn't be surprised by Edelman seeing a light workload against the Colts.