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Julian Edelman has ‘itch’ to get back on field, has been training to get in ‘football shape’ 07.20.16 at 5:38 pm ET
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Julian Edelman is itching to get back on the football field. ( photo)

Julian Edelman is itching to get back on the football field. ( photo)

One of the biggest question marks entering Patriots training camp next week will be if wide receiver Julian Edelman will be on the field.

The wide out had offseason foot surgery after breaking his foot during the year, but did return for the postseason possibly doing more damage to the foot.

Edelman didn’t specifically address his foot, but sounded like a player who has been working hard in the offseason and is ready to get back out on the field with less than a week left in his offseason.

“You enjoy it, but you have the itch to get back,” Edelman said at Fenway Park Wednesday where he took batting practice, including hitting several homers over the Green Monster. “It’s not like you haven’t been doing anything. You’ve been training and get your body and yourself in football shape. That’s kind of where my focus has been.”

Edelman was asked about Tom Brady and him missing the first four games, but he didn’t want to get into it.

“I’m not here to talk about that, I am here to enjoy America’s pastime,” he said.

The Patriots’ first official training camp practice is July 28.

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Video: Julian Edelman hits home run over Green Monster at Fenway Park at 5:25 pm ET
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Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman was at Fenway Park on Wednesday and took batting practice on the field where he was able to hit several balls over the Green Monster.

“I don’t know, I couldn’t count,” Edelman said. “Six or seven. I think seven.”

Edelman was asked what he was thinking when looking out at the Monster from home plate.

“Taking it down,” he said. “I don’t know. It’s all fun. I played baseball growing up and to get to come out to a big league park and see these guys it puts in perspective how good these guys are. These guys are studs.”

He got advice from longtime friend, Red Sox third base coach Brian Butterfield, who actually worked Edelman out in Toronto when he was with the Blue Jays. Bench coach Torey Lovullo also gave encouragement from behind the cage.

The wide receiver grew up a Giants fan, but said he’s now a Red Sox fan. He added it will be cool to get to see the teams on opposite coasts and leagues face off.

“I was a Giants fan growing up, Sox fan now,” Edelman said. “This is my NL team. It’s going to be cool to stay here and watch the game. You never really see East Coast versus West Coast like this. It’s going to be a fun game to watch.”

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Most Important Patriots of 2016: No. 3, Julian Edelman at 10:05 am ET
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Julian Edelman enjoyed the celebration around the Patriots' most recent Super Bowl title. (Scott Eisen/Getty Images)

Julian Edelman enjoyed the celebration around the Patriots’ most recent Super Bowl title. (Scott Eisen/Getty Images)

As the countdown to training camp begins later this month, we’re looking at the 20 most important members of the Patriots heading into 2016.

3. Wide receiver Julian Edelman

Height: 6-foot
Weight: 198 pounds
Age: 30 (will turn 31 on May 22)

Resume: A seventh-round pick out of Kent State in 2009, the former college quarterback has become one of the most trusted receivers Tom Brady has ever had. He impressed as a rookie with 37 catches, but it truly took him a few years to evolve as a receiver. He eventually found his footing in 2013, following the departure of Wes Welker — with the loss of Welker in free agency, the door was open, and Edelman kicked it down. In the last three years, he’s caught 258 passes and 17 touchdowns, one of just nine pass catchers who has topped at least 250 receptions in that stretch. (His career year came in 2013, when he finished with 105 catches for 1,056 yards and six touchdowns.) He’s also managed to carve out an impressive career as a punt returner — Edelman has a 12.0 career punt return average, third in the NFL since the 1970 merger. (Only Rick Upchurch and Devin Hester at 12.1 yards per return are better.) In addition, he has four punt returns for touchdowns, most in franchise history.

Why we ranked him here: When it comes to the Patriots, “Minitron” is the latest in a long line of slightly undersized pass catchers who have distinguished themselves as Brady’s favorites for several reasons, not the least of which is the fact that they usually have an outstanding catch rate, quality yards after the catch and make guys miss on a consistent basis. No one moves the chains quite like Edelman, who has an astounding chemistry with the quarterback that allows him to make plays that no one else on the roster can make. His status will bear watching this summer because he was in and out of a walking boot this offseason, and wasn’t on the field for spring workouts (at least the sessions that were open to the media). From this viewpoint, you can make an argument about Edelman or Rob Gronkowski when it comes to No. 2 vs. No. 3 on this list. But when it comes to overall importance, particularly as it relates to the success of Brady and the New England passing game, Edelman is clearly worthy of a spot in the top 3.

Quote: “He’s always been one of the hardest workers, one of the hardest workers I’ve ever played with [and] one of the most determined young men that’s on this team. And he’s got as much heart as anybody.” — Brady on Edelman, 1/16/16

Random Note: In the last three seasons, Edelman has more regular-season catches than Larry Fitzgerald (254), Calvin Johnson (243) and Jimmy Graham (219).

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Julian Edelman on what it means to be Bostonian, how he pretended to be Tom Brady in 8th grade 07.05.16 at 12:24 pm ET
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Julian Edelman

Julian Edelman

Julian Edelman has been living in the Boston area for roughly eight years, so he knows what it’s like to be a Bostonian.

In the July issue of Augustman magazine, the Patriots wide receiver opened up about what it’s like to live in Boston and that came back to telling a story of how he pretended to be Tom Brady in eighth grade.

“Becoming a Bostonian has been unbelievable,” Edelman said. “It has been an incredible place to live and play a sport I love. Boston is a gritty, tough town and a perfect match for me coming from a blue-collar, humble background myself. I love that in Boston the year isn’t broken up by seasons, like fall and summer. It’s broken up by sport: basketball season, football season, hockey season and baseball season. Think about it, other big market cities like San Francisco or Los Angeles or New York have other industries. They have tech and real estate and Hollywood and fashion. Boston has sports, that’s it.

“I’m a product of the late ’80s, early ’90s, the Bill Walsh era at the San Fransisco 49ers — so being a Patriot in a town like Boston reminds me of that golden era of football. I remember being in eighth grade and pretending to be Tom Brady at recess and now I am teammates and friends with Tom Brady. We held up the Vince Lombardi trophy together. So yea, playing for the New England Patriots has been my greatest achievement, it has been the highlight of my life no doubt.”

Edelman and his Patriots teammates will open training camp July 27.

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10 questions for Patriots as summer begins 06.14.16 at 3:51 pm ET
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Tom Brady and the Patriots are just about done with spring workouts. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

Tom Brady and the Patriots are just about done with spring workouts. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)

With the spring OTAs coming to an end this week and minicamp done, here are 10 questions — in no particular order — we still have about the Patriots as the countdown to late July and training camp begins.

1. How soon can Julian Edelman return to full strength?

If you spend time obsessively monitoring social media, it appears there is some progress when it comes to the health of Edelman. He was healthy, he was in a walking boot (for some sort of procedure on the same foot he injured late last season) and now, it appears he’s out of the boot. He wasn’t on the field all spring, at least in the workouts the media got to see. It’s not like he needs a ton of reps to get up to speed with Tom Brady, but from this perspective, getting him on the field sooner rather than later would eliminate some of the uncertainty around his situation.

2. Was Aaron Dobson’s performance a tease, or something he can build on?

There were a ton of familiar faces on the offensive side of the ball missing from minicamp, but Dobson was the guy who did the best to take advantage of the opportunities he was given. He pretty much caught everything that was thrown in his direction over the course of the three days, but what impressed us the most was his compete level when going against cornerbacks. He consistently won the one-on-one battles, and flashed some moments of real talent. For a guy who has been a non-factor the last two years, the question is now whether or not he can build on that going forward into training camp as he continues to fight an uphill battle for a roster spot at the back end of the receivers’ depth chart.

3. Is Rob Gronkowski right when it comes to Jimmy Garoppolo?

We spend a lot of time talking to people like Gronkowski and Jeff Christiansen who know more than we do about Garoppolo and his development, and they all seem to believe that he’s ready to step in to start the year if Brady is sidelined because of Deflategate. And he certainly looked the part over the course of the spring workouts — while the Patriots’ didn’t necessarily increase his workload, he looked confident and polished, at least in the sessions that were open to the media. But the truth of the matter is that there’s no way of knowing what sort of quarterback Garoppolo will be when asked to take significant snaps. As Christiansen said, the opener on the road against the Cardinals would be a challenge for any signal-caller, but at the same time, three consecutive home games would appear to set up relatively nicely for the Eastern Illinois product. Ultimately, it’s a great unknown. Like Christiansen said, that’s why we buy the tickets, right?

4. Will we get some closure on Deflategate?

We are still waiting for the other shoe to drop when it comes to the en banc hearing, which means — as of this writing — there’s still uncertainly around the quarterback position for the first four games of the regular season. Short answer? The Patriots would love some clarity at quarterback sooner rather than later. For what it’s worth, they didn’t appear to deviate from the norm when it came to quarterback reps over the course of the spring workouts that were attended by the media, as it went Brady, Garoppolo and rookie Jacoby Brissett.

5. Can Cyrus Jones step in and start at nickel corner?

Over the course of the spring workouts — both minicamp and OTAs — it was hard not to notice how comfortable the rookie out of Alabama looked while playing alongside starting defensive backs like Malcolm Butler and Devin McCourty. At this stage of the offseason, when it comes to first-year players, all you’re looking for is that they aren’t consistent error-repeaters. And while it was hard to judge defense because there were no pads on, Jones looked to have no issues when it came to keeping up with the veterans. He’ll certainly bear watching when training camp comes around, but at this point, he appears to be headed in the right direction as a third/nickel corner. In addition, with no Edelman or Danny Amendola on the field, he had plenty of chances to work as a punt returner. While he bobbled a few, he looks like he’s certainly going to be part of the conversation at that position in 2016.

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Even Bill Belichick impressed with the receivers: ‘They’ve all showed up and made plays down the field’ 06.09.16 at 4:55 pm ET
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Bill Belichick speaks after mini-camp Thursday. (Mike Petraglia/

Bill Belichick speaks after mini-camp Thursday. (Mike Petraglia/

FOXBORO — This week in minicamp has been a chance for the receivers behind Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola to step up.

According to Bill Belichick after the final mini-camp practice on Thursday, that’s exactly what they’ve done.

The quintet of Aaron Dobson, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell, Keshawn Martin and Nate Washington have looked good without the pads on.

All five of those receivers made big plays over the three days, including Dobson and Mitchell, both of whom made acrobatic catches in the end zone for touchdowns. Belichick was taking note.

“Our receivers have been good. We have good competition at that position and they’ve all showed up and made plays down the field, caught the ball well. It’s been good,” Belichick said.

And while Washington is new to the team he’s not new to the type of offense the Patriots run. His experience with former Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien in Houston showed up this week, as he looked like a receiver comfortable with the routes.

“[With] Nate, they played it in Houston, so he’s kind of familiar with it,” Belichick said. “Those guys have done a good job. I think our receiver group overall has done well – gotten open, caught the ball. Nate and Keshawn have both done a good job.”

Belichick, meanwhile, surprised no one when he didn’t offer an update on the status of tight end/tackle Michael Williams. The Globe’s Jim McBride reported Thursday that Williams suffered an ACL tear on Wednesday and might be headed to injured reserve.

“I don’t think we’re doing injury reports here,” Belichick said. “Maybe the league will require us to do those.”

One of those who might step forward with Williams out is newcomer Clay Harbor.

“Professional. Works hard. He’s a versatile guy,” Belichick said of Harbor. “He’s done a lot of different things. Philadelphia and Jacksonville, he did the same thing, special teams and offense. Hopefully a number of roles if he can do them and get an opportunity to do them.”

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Bill Belichick on absence of Rob Gronkowski, others: ‘They were doing other things’ 06.07.16 at 2:40 pm ET
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Rob Gronkowski

Rob Gronkowski

FOXBORO — Bill Belichick is doing his best not to feed into the mystery surrounding Rob Gronkowski.

The Patriots superstar tight end missed the first day of mandatory mini-camp Tuesday at Gillette Stadium. When asked, the Patriots coach hinted that Gronkowski was actually in the building but just not practicing on the field.

“There are a lot of players that were not on the field,” Belichick told reporters in the heat of the sun. “They were doing other things.”

Was Gronkowski expected to be there?

“All of our players are. They’re doing other things,” Belichick said.

What wasn’t clear from the answer was whether Belichick was indicating that all players are expected to be at camp or whether, indeed, they “are” in the building.

Gronkowski has been spotted often recently around Boston, including at the Myra Kraft MVP Community awards last week, where he took a break from working out to make an appearance with Tom Brady at Gillette’s Putnam Club.

Gronkowski was one of several players not spotted Tuesday. Also not on hand were Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, LeGarrette Blount, Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer.

Belichick was also asked if all players reported to mini-camp.

“I don’t know. Whoever is here is here,” the coach said.

There were special guests on hand Tuesday for the start of mini-camp as members of the Navy football coaching staff stood on the side and observed.

“They’re just up here to watch what we’re doing. We have a great relationship with Ken [Niumatalolo],” Belichick said of the head coach of the Midshipmen. “He’s been a good friend and everything I’ve asked, he’s always been there for me.”

Joe Cardona, a graduate of the Naval Academy in 2015, reported to mini-camp on Tuesday. He is beginning his second year with the Patriots.

Belichick said he didn’t know the status of his long-snapper and his availability going forward this summer or whether Naval commitments might take precedence.

“Just keep making progress,” Belichick said. “Each day, just try to build on the day before. A lot of new faces, a lot of new installation, so just grind through it day by day.

“We’re all starting all over. We’re all starting all over, coaches, players, everybody. It’s a new year, we’re all starting over.”

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