FOXBORO -- Julian Edelman didn't hesitate when he was asked a question Sunday about how much his craft "consumes" him.
“It consumes your whole life," he said. "Every decision you make, at least in my life, is according to your football life. It’s pretty gnarly. And it consumes a lot of time. I think that anyone who is trying to be really good at something, I think they can say they do the same thing.
"Whether it’s football, or a different craft, or whatever craft you’re in, I think if you have an obsessed kind of obsession to get some results or attain a goal, or anything along those lines, that’s what you consume yourself with. If you can think about it in your mind, you can hold it in your hand – that old saying.
"I guess it consumes a lot of my time. I can’t speak for a lot of other people. But it definitely does consume and make you feel unbalanced. It’s tough to be a friend or family member or a person you’re in a relationship with – especially during football season, because it’s one of those things; you’ve been put on this earth to play football, and it’s going to consume a lot of time because you have goals."
At 34 years old, the veteran receiver is still driven to the point where he'll freely acknowledge he could be a better family member if not for football. And at 34 years old, in his 12th NFL season, missing practice time still seems like a non-starter for him. If he can avoid it, he's going to be on the field, going through the paces he's been through for the entirety of his career.
Edelman might be limited at times, as he was in the middle of last week, not taking every snap in team periods. He may have days when his hands let him down. But he's on the field. Sunday he caught seven passes from Cam Newton and spent extra time with his new quarterback seemingly to discuss some of the finer points of how he runs his routes.
That might not be worth noting most days. But Edelman's young teammate N'Keal Harry, drafted in the first round last year, returned to practice Sunday after missing three consecutive sessions last week. Harry dropped two passes -- one in drills, one in team work -- and didn't appear to be moving at full speed.
At the end of the practice, during a period focused on hurry-up situations, Brian Hoyer and the Patriots offense appeared to be waiting on Harry to join them in the huddle. While Harry met with a trainer and walked off the field, Damiere Byrd trotted onto the field to take Harry's place. It was a hot practice, and Harry had just taken several snaps with the previous hurry-up group, led by Cam Newton. But so too did Byrd.
It's unclear what kept Harry out last week or what might've been limiting him late during Sunday's session. But the reps Harry's lost aren't inconsequential. A late start to his rookie year -- he began 2019 on injured reserve -- made it difficult for him to get up to speed with an offense run by Tom Brady in the second half of the season.
That he's missed half of New England's camp practices in front of reporters isn't a harbinger for disaster for Harry's second season. There remain three weeks of work between now and the start of the regular season.
But, as Edelman would tell him, every rep matters.
Edelman was asked after Sunday's workout how valuable camp snaps are this time of year, and what he's seen from Harry effort-wise when Harry has been present.
“Once again, that’s a ‘Coach’ question," Edelman answered. "I think training camp is extremely valuable, especially this year, when we have such crazy turnover. So regardless of who it is – any time I don’t get to practice, or anyone doesn’t get to practice, that’s definitely very tough. Because this is where, like we were talking earlier, where you begin to gain trust from your teammates. You show accountability. You show them how dependable you are through being able to take things from the classroom to drills, and the drills to the team drills. Team practice.
"It’s one thing to go out and do something right for yourself. I think another reason why I like to go out and do something right, or work hard at something, is to show my teammates that you’re out here working your tail off for them. Because ultimately it’s 11 guys. It’s the ultimate team sport. Eleven guys have to do something right for 5-6 seconds. And if one guy doesn’t do something right, it could make the play jeopardized. I think it’s tough. But [Harry] was out here today. You can ask Coach on how he’s doing. I think N’Keal’s always working hard. It’s definitely always tough for anyone to go out and miss practice.”
The Patriots were in shells and shorts on Sunday after a day off on Saturday. The last time they were in full pads was Thursday, which could mean another high-intensity practice with contact is coming soon.
It'll bear watching Harry, whose combination of strength and athleticism -- traits that made him worthy of a first-round selection -- could be critical to the success of the Patriots passing game. He just needs to stay on the field to have an opportunity to let those traits shine.