After breaking a bone in his left foot this past Sunday in New York, Julian Edelman reportedly underwent surgery the next day, but could still be healed in time for either the end of the regular season or start of the playoffs in January. In the interim, the Patriots must get creative in finding a way to survive offensively without their leading wide receiver.
Twice already this week, QB Tom Brady has gone on record as saying it's nearly impossible to replicate what Edelman does by simply replacing him on the field with another player.
"You wish you could just plug someone else in, but that's, you know, it's impossible… Julian Edelmans just aren't sitting out on the street or else they'd be playing for another team," Brady told reporters Wednesday.
In the same breath, Brady maintained that he has confidence in whichever player or players are asked to fulfill the Edelman role for the foreseeable future.
"The guys who are going to be in there, we'll have confidence in the things that they can do well. And I think the expectations are still the same. We expect to go out there and score points every time we touch the ball, and it may take a little different shape. You just have to rely on some different things that are a part of your offense and just do the best you can do."
The question now is, who can or will step up?
An obvious candidate is Danny Amendola, who is as similar to the dynamic receiver/returner in size and skill set as the Patriots have on their roster.
Another option could be Keshawn Martin, but the veteran hasn't been able to dress for a game in a month because of a hamstring injury. Now would be a convenient time for Martin to become a factor again, after his quick insertion into the offense when he was acquired in a trade with Houston earlier this season. Then there's recently promoted practice squad rookie Chris Harper, who had an impressive training camp and preseason.
However the Patriots choose to approach this latest injury conundrum, chances are it won't be easy.
"He's a great player. He did a lot for our offense," Amendola remarked. "He made a lot of big plays. We have a lot of playmakers on this team that need to step up and make some plays, too. Everybody has a role on this team and a job to do. That's all we can focus on. I just need to focus on my abilities and what I can do."
"It affects everybody on the offense. Julian is an unbelievable player," tight end Rob Gronkowski observed. "The way he plays the game of football is irreplaceable. He goes out there every practice, every game and plays 100 percent. You can't just replace him, but you can go out there, new guys stepping up, myself stepping up, just everyone as a whole, as an offense just stepping up and taking their game to another level without him there."
"It's football season, and a lot of teams go through similar things, [losing] certain players that are really critical," added Brady. "You just have to figure out a way to kind of keep producing and scoring points. It may be different than the way that it's been."
"Dealing with adversity is huge not only during the season, but [also] during a game, during a drive. It's not different. There's no question that Julian was a great football player, but he'll be back. He's going to work his tail off, just like he always does to get back and play."
There was still no sign of linebacker Jamie Collins either at practice or in the locker room. Collins has been dealing with an unspecified illness since Nov. 7, when he was downgraded for the Washington game. He hasn't practiced or played or even been seen by media at the facility since.
On the other end of the spectrum, there were three encouraging signs for the team's battered offensive line. Sebastian Vollmer (concussion), Marcus Cannon (toe), and rookie Tre' Jackson (left knee) all suited up and took part in Wednesday's work session. Vollmer missed the Giants game, Cannon has been on the shelf since Indy in Week 6, while Jackson has missed the past two contests.
Familiar names with new faces
The Patriots made a series of practice squad moves this Wednesday. Following the aforementioned promotion of Harper to the 53-man roster, the club released safeties Ross Ventrone and Dewey McDonald. That left three openings on the p-squad, which the club was quick to fill with a trio of veterans: safety Brock Vereen, tight end Joseph Fauria, and cornerback Chris Greenwood.
Vereen is the younger brother of former Patriots, now Giants running back Shane Vereen, and Fauria is the nephew of retired Patriots tight end Christian Fauria.