When Shakespeare's King Henry V rallied his troops at the Battle of Agincourt with the cry, "Once more unto the breach, dear friends," he was beseeching them to mount another attack on a walled city which they'd been holding under siege.
Early Monday, Julian Edelman posted a tweet with this quote, accompanied by a photo of himself running onto the field at Gillette Stadium and the word "Playoffs" splashed across the middle. In essence, the injured wide receiver was declaring that he'll be suiting up on Saturday when New England hosts Kansas City on the Divisional round of the AFC playoffs.
After a two-hour practice, Edelman spoke for the first time in weeks on the record and virtually proclaimed again that he's planning to play for the first time since breaking his left foot in mid-November.
"I'm feeling good. I've been working hard, doing everything I can to get myself ready," he began. "I'd say I'm more focused than anxious. I put my heart and soul into everything I do to get ready for the season. Not to be able to go out there [for so long]… it sucks. Hopefully I can go out and help in practice and get better each day and improve and prepare for this week."
When asked how fully he's recovered from the resulting surgery, Edelman responded, "I can't put a percentage on it until [game day]. I'm feeling a day better than yesterday and it continues to get better."
When a player is returning from a serious injury and is cleared to play (as Edelman reportedly was this week), it's often a matter of overcoming the psychological effects more than the physical ones. Edelman, however, insisted that is not a problem for him.
"I'm going to go full throttle regardless. If it goes, it goes. That's kind of how I am. Of course, we'll be smart, but if I suit up, we'll be all right. So, we'll see.
The harder part, he maintained, will be shaking any rust off and being in game shape in time for Saturday's tilt. Edelman has been practicing since early December, just a few weeks after his surgery.
"It's going to be tough. We worked out tail off to try to keep our conditioning up, but it's different… We'll see. We're going to try to make the situation as hard as possible in practice."
Edelman's return to the practice field last month, so soon after his medical procedure, took some observers by surprise. The veteran admitted that at times he's had to rein himself in from being impatient and overzealous in his attempt to get back on the game field as soon as possible.
"Oh, yeah, definitely. I'm kind of my worst enemy when it comes to that. I try to push things. We've had our staff work with me to keep me from hurting myself. I think we've handled it pretty decent."
He also acknowledged that he initially feared his season might be over, but that he was buoyed by the faith his coaches had in his ability to return in time for the postseason. Edelman has been trying to reward their faith by working hard both on and off the field, taking as many "mental reps" as possible by watching more film when he was unable to dress for practices.
After five minutes of questions about the injury, Edelman tried to steer the conversation into a different direction.
"I'm more focused on the Kansas City Chiefs," he said. "It's going to be the best team we've played this year. They've won 11 straight. This team's a hot team. It shouldn't be about my foot or this, that… it should be about the Kansas City Chiefs because that's a solid football team."
Check out photos from Patriots practice and media access at Gillette Stadium as the team prepares for the Divisional playoff game against the Kansas City Chiefs.
From a health standpoint, the Patriots appear to be in the best collective shape they've enjoyed since October. Every member of the 53-man roster, as well as the practice squad, was dressed for Monday's practice, with the exception of safety Nate Ebner. The veteran continues to wear a large cast on his right arm, the result of an injury he seems to have suffered during or since the regular season finale at Miami eight days ago.
The Blair Miss Project
Over the Wild Card Weekend, Minnesota unceremoniously exited the playoffs when Vikings kicker Blair Walsh hooked a chip-shot field goal with just seconds remaining. Walsh's missed kick gave Seattle a 10-9 road win, but Walsh did not shy away from attention after the game, fielding several media questions afterward.
On Monday, Patriots placekicker Stephen Gostkowski empathized with his kicking counterpart and lauded the way he handled the disappointment.
"It's unfortunate. Personally I feel really bad for Blair. Professionally it's part of the game," Gostkowski told the assembled media at Gillette Stadium. "It's something that happens. We've all been there. I've seen the best of the best miss kicks, miss big kicks, miss short kicks. It happens to everybody, sometimes just timing is very unfortunate.
"I was at least proud of the way he stood up there, took it on his shoulders. Personally I feel terrible for him. Professionally it's what we sign up for. You have to be able to take the good and the bad. He was man enough to do that. He didn't succeed on the field but he handled himself with class after the game. Which at least he can hang his hat on that."