We've seen plenty of Julian Edelman on the training camp practice fields this summer, just never in full pads until Sunday. By doing so, Edelman officially comes off the physically unable to perform list (PUP).
The veteran wide receiver, recovering from offseason surgery to his left foot, didn't take part in the intra-squad scrimmage Sunday and didn't do much more than he's normally been doing throughout camp. Edelman mostly did conditioning work on the lower field, out of view of training camp attendees, before coming up to the double fields later in the afternoon to catch some passes from Tom Brady on the empty second field.
Still, his removal from PUP and lack of a red, no-contact jersey is welcome news for the Patriots. He smirked when a reporter asked if he's at full strength yet.
"I'm day-to-day right now, so I'm a day better than yesterday. It feels good to get out here and get to see the fellas in pads.
"You've got to get your football legs back in shape and you've got to have this extra weight on. It's about seven pounds," he explained, "so it's good to get out here and run around with the pads and adjust to catching a ball with the shoulder pads, the helmet, the face mask; going out there and trying to get tired, as tired as possible with the pads on so you can get used to the games and stuff."
With New England's first preseason game approaching on Thursday, Edelman looks healthy enough to play, but he wouldn't commit either way when the subject came up.
"Today, we just went out there and kind of got in some drills, tried to catch some balls from some guys, go out there and just be around the team, and then went down and did our own thing. I'll do what [the coaching and medical staffs] tell me to do, and that's kind of where we're at.
"It's a progression. We're going to go in here and evaluate things, see how it feels, then come out and do it again. It's that kind of process so it's a day-to-day thing. You just try to go out and improve each day on your fundamentals, try to get all those things back and then knock off all the rust and all that stuff. That's where I'm at. Any time you can go out and put pads on and practice before the season, I think it's a good sign."
Blue vs White, Part II
View a collection of the best images from Patriots Training Camp in Foxborough on Sunday, August 7, 2016.
For the second straight practice, Bill Belichick broke his 90-man roster in half to conduct Sunday's session as an intra-squad scrimmage. Once again, Jimmy Garoppolo led the white team, with Tom Brady conducting the blue offense.
The sides were essentially the same as in last Friday's scrimmage, with a few minor adjustments (Martellus Bennett went from the blue side to the white, for instance), but the results weren't nearly as electrifying. Yet despite the low-scoring affair, Belichick believes the competitive, game-like atmosphere is more beneficial both to the players and coaches than regular practice drill periods.
"This is football. It's as close as we can get to it. The drill work is good. The repetition is good. That's how you build your fundamentals. That's how you build your execution, but at some point you've got to play like we're playing and that's good, too," he explained. "It's good for the coaches; handling all the substitutions, making adjustments on the sideline, seeing the game on the down and distance basis, seeing it live as opposed to making corrections on film. Not that we don't coach on the field, but when you don't know when it's coming, when the down and distance changes, we need work on that, too, so it's good for all of us."
The players seem to enjoy practice more when the day-to-day monotony of drills is broken up by a game-type environment.
"Yeah, I really enjoy that, but we're all out there for work," cornerback Malcolm Butler acknowledged. "[The scrimmaging] teaches you game situations like, if they're in field goal range, we need to stop them at a certain yard marker. Working all situations is better for the team.
"This is as close to game-time as we're going to get besides Thursday [night against New Orleans]. So, we're all out here competing, having fun, enjoying it. If you're not having fun, there's something wrong."
"There were some good things. There were some things that we need to do better," added Belichick. "We ran 100 plays so that's a lot of good opportunities to coach. At some point we've got to make some [roster] decisions and see where things are. I think we've given everybody a pretty good chance to learn what to do, to have an opportunity to rep it. Now we're getting into some competitive situations with us, then against these other [preseason opponents] there will be not just the game, but other practice opportunities as well to evaluate. Those will all be valuable. We'll just see how it goes."
Strolling down memory lane
Each August, the NFL preseason game schedule commences with the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio. This year, Indianapolis and Green Bay were slated to kick off the summer festivities, but during pregame warmups, players on both sides complained to the league that the playing surface was unfit for competition, putting the contest in doubt as of early Sunday evening.
Nevertheless, the induction ceremony for the 2016 Hall of Fame class took place the night before, with former Colts wideout Marvin Harrison and retired head coach Tony Dungy among the newest members.
"Harrison was a great receiver," Belichick reminisced before Sunday's scrimmage. "He could do it all, and he had the quarterback to go with him, obviously. But he was – short, long, run-after-catch, great route runner, outside the numbers – we always doubled him. That was Ty [Law] out there on him, too, but I'm saying anytime we doubled; there was a lot of guys you had to worry about on that team. [Edgerrin] James, the receivers, the tight ends, the running back, the quarterback, but in the end where it usually went to was Harrison. [Ken] Dilger, James, [Peyton] Manning, [Reggie] Wayne – it was always Harrison – and that's not taking anything away from the rest of them, but you've got to start somewhere."
Belichick's Patriots did battle with Harrison numerous times while Dungy was head coach there, often in the playoffs as well as the regular season. What Belichick said he remembers most about Dungy's clubs during that era was that "they were always tough."
Buy: AJ Derby – The second-year player, who spent nearly the entirety of 2015 on injured reserve, had a couple of impressive catches during Sunday's scrimmage and has been making plays consistently during training camp.
Sell: Bryce Williams – After a strong start to camp, this rookie tight end has not been able to practice for several days, presumably with some sort of injury.
*Play of the Day: *In the red zone, QB Jimmy Garoppolo fired a pass to the back left corner of the end zone, where tight end Martellus Bennett made a fantastic leaping grab. He kept both feet in bounds for the score, despite tight coverage for a couple of defenders. It was the white squad's only touchdown of the afternoon.