New England Patriots

The last time Julian Edelman was on Gillette Stadium turf in front of a crowd was when he joined Patriots owner Robert Kraft and former teammate Deion Branch during New England’s opening night pregame ceremony honoring their Super Bowl LI win. The 32-year-old Edelman, of course, was not in pads of any sort as a result of a torn ACL suffered during the preseason.

Nine months later, Edelman has found himself back on the field, and with a new appreciation for the game.

“It’s been good,” Edelman said of his return to the field. “Anytime you get to go out and see the fellas and play with them and talk with them and be in the huddle and look at guys and participate in drills – I mean, that’s what you play the game for.

“It was tough to watch it all on the sideline last year. To come out here and just to do little things, strap on the helmet, puts in perspective how lucky you are to get to play the game.”

It’s also been a long road that’s seen Edelman have to know when to push or give himself some extra time off.

“Everyone’s a competitor, so sometimes you’re your worst own enemy when you’re trying to do that,” Edelman, who said he does not plan on wearing a knee brace this upcoming season, admitted of his pacing during his road back to action. “But, it is what it is and there’s a big part of the process and I’ve got a lot of guys, training staff helping me out – TB12, all that stuff – to get to where I want to be.

“Your confidence is built through your preparation, your fundamentals, and so we’ve been working really hard at those things. It’s one of those things where each step you take, you’re prepared for that step, so that’s how I feel.”

This offseason program is certainly a lot different for Edelman, too, especially after offseason losses of Brandin Cooks, as well as Danny Amendola, a player No. 11 developed an extremely close relationship with during their five-year run together.

“Yeah, I mean, that’s the nature of this beast, this business, is guys come and go. You make a lot of relationships that you’ll cherish forever, but it’s sad to see a guy like him go,” Edelman said of Amendola’s departure to Miami. “But, I mean, that’s in the past now, and now you’re looking forward to molding and getting together with your new teammates. Because I could tell you right now, this isn’t the first team to lose a guy like that and it won’t be the last.”

But Edelman was more than thrilled to see his quarterback back on the field.

“I always like looking at [No.] 12,” Edelman remarked. “It’s always loud with [No.] 12 out there. He’s an intimidating S.O.B.”