FOXBOROUGH – Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman, who broke his right foot at Miami Dec. 4, 2012, and missed the last four games of the regular season, made his much-anticipated return to practice Thursday after spending the first week of training camp on the team's physically unable to perform list.
"It felt good,'' Edelman said after he fully participated in Thursday's full-padded practice at Gillette Stadium before an estimated crowd of about 7,000 fans. "It's always exciting to get back out there with your teammates, start a new year, and get on the field. It was exciting.''
Entering his fifth year after being drafted in the seventh round in 2009 out of Kent State, where he starred as a quarterback, Edelman emerged as a welcome addition to the Patriots young corps of receivers as one of the more veteran players in the group.
"Obviously, it's new right now, so I'm definitely going to have to get my legs under me, work my way in, and try to land a spot,'' said Edelman, who played in nine games and made three starts last season, catching 21 passes for 235 yards and a career-high three touchdowns.
Given all he went through to get back on the field, Edelman was asked how meaningful it was to finally don full pads again.
"It felt great,'' he said. "Like I said, you're around the facility and you're seeing all your teammates having fun, training camp with guys developing. It was just great to be out there and see all the faces.''
Edelman was not hindered in any way during Thursday's practice, running routes with the receivers and working on special teams as the punt return specialist.
"I'm just focused on coming out here, getting my feet down, running around on the grass, having fun and playing football,'' he said.
Asked if there was much rust to be knocked off after his first practice in pads, Edelman replied, "It's been a while, so of course. I have a long way to go and I'm excited that the process has started.''
Was there any drill in particular where his rustiness was self evident?
"No, I mean, just in general,'' Edelman said. "The duration of practice, I mean, these guys are in shape out there, running around with all this fast-tempo stuff. The train's moving and I've got to catch up.''