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Bill Belichick on Julian Edelman: As good a competitor as I’ve coached

Super Bowl LI - New England Patriots v Atlanta Falcons

HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 05: Julian Edelman #11 of the New England Patriots makes a 23 yard catch in the fourth quarter against Ricardo Allen #37, Robert Alford #23 and Keanu Neal #22 of the Atlanta Falcons during Super Bowl 51 at NRG Stadium on February 5, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

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After Julian Edelman made the play of the game in Super Bowl LI, Patriots coach Bill Belichick heaped praise on him as one of the finest players he’s been around.

Belichick said he couldn’t tell in real time whether Edelman had made the catch of a tipped ball that will go down in Super Bowl history, but he did know that Edelman always fights for every play when he’s on the field.

“I thought it was a close play,” Belichick said. “I wasn’t sure if he had it or not. Then when we saw the replay he was clearly under it. Julian has great concentration. He is a tremendous competitor. As good of a competitor as anyone that I have coached. This guy has played slot defensive back for us, returns kicks, covers kicks, blocks, catches tough passes, runs the ball for us on sweeps and stuff like that. He does whatever it takes. He made a tremendous play. It is not the first one he has made, but that was obviously a big one.”

When Belichick took a seventh-round flyer on Edelman in the 2009 NFL draft, he couldn’t have known that he was drafting one of the best competitors he’d ever coach. But that’s what Edelman has become, and the Super Bowl catch was his crowning achievement.