He's come a long way from 7th-round obscurity.
Entering his ninth NFL season and final year of his current contract, Julian Edelman inked a new deal with the Patriots last week that should keep him in a Patriots uniform through the 2019 season. And if he earns all its incentives, he'll bank nearly $20 million.
"I want to thank the Krafts, Mr. [Robert] Kraft, the Kraft family, Coach [Bill] Belichick, the coaching staff for giving me another opportunity to stay here and play. I love being a Patriot," the 31-year-old receiver told reporters after Tuesday's organized team activity [OTA] practice.
"Julian's improved and done a lot of things that he never did in college, so that was not maybe something that he would have projected or anticipated," head coach Bill Belichick remarked prior to today's practice. "But at the same time, he had enough qualities that we drafted him, and he showed that even as a rookie, I think, in terms of his production."
Throughout his pro career, Edelman has fought through various injuries to become one of the offense's most reliable targets. This offseason, however, he's been pain-free and playing the best football of his career. He credits much of this to his association with fitness specialist Alex Guerrero, who partners with QB Tom Brady's TB12 Sports Therapy Center at Patriot Place in Foxborough.
"I think it's a huge part. It's a lifestyle on how to take care of your body, what you put in your body, flushing your body with his work. Before and after practice, keeping your muscles pliable, keeping them hydrated; those things. All it is is knowledge and the more knowledge you get through the years, the more powerful you can get. That's kind of the little saying: more knowledge, more power. It's definitely helped me a lot and I look forward to continue doing it.
"I feel good," he emphasized. "It's nice not having to do that kind of stuff, getting surgeries and all that. It gives you an opportunity to get better. That's what the offseason's for. When you get hurt, it doesn't matter if you come in 100 percent feeling fast, feeling quick, feeling explosive. These are the days you go out and this is how you get better because when you're hurt, you're trying to get healthy and when you're getting healthy, other guys are working on their techniques, their fundamentals, and it's giving them an upper hand. It's always nice to be on the practice field because, ultimately, practice is the most important thing other than the game because that's where you gain your confidence, that's where you get your fundamentals. I'm a practice player. The more I practice, the more confident I become."
Edelman and the rest of his returning teammates collected their Super Bowl LI championship rings in a lavish ceremony last week, marking the official end of the celebratory portion of this offseason.
"I could say for me personally it does that," he agreed. "Sixteen was fun but '16 is over. It's '17 now. There are no champions. Everyone's got the same record. Everyone is working hard in heat.
"I'm looking forward to the 2017 season... you can't think too far ahead. That's what I've learned in this profession over my years. So I'm just worried about the next day, and the next day is going out and trying to improve and getting ready for this 2017 season."
Check out our favorite photos from the Patriots organized team activity on Tuesday, June 13, 2017.
See you at camp
Spring practices are just about over. New England is scheduled to have one more on-field session on Thursday before breaking for the next six weeks of summer.
"Obviously, we have a ton of work to do. Got some done this spring. We have a lot more to do this year to get ready to go," added Belichick. "It will be on top of us quickly with training camp and then Jacksonville, Houston, Detroit [preseason] games after that and working with those good organizations, but I'd say right now we just need to keep grinding it out.
"We all have got a lot of work to do. I don't think we're really close to where we need to be at, so just keep trying to close the gaps as much as we can between now and the [regular season] opener with Kansas City."
The Patriots will report back for training camp at the end of July. Between now and then, players are on their own to keep themselves in shape physically and mentally for the start of the new season.
"We have a standard around here, and each day, we have to play to that standard… no matter what we install, no matter what the weather is, or how the day goes," safety Devin McCourty declared. "We're kind of establishing that now and that's great for going into training camp.
"We're obviously not there at all, but I think we've gotten better in every aspect. It's a day-in-day-out process. Every day hasn't been perfect, but we've progressed."