By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Julian Edelman is hanging up his spikes.
The veteran wide receiver officially announced his decision in a four-minute video posted on his social media channels on Monday afternoon.
“Nothing in my career has ever come easy. And no surprise, this isn’t gonna be easy, either. Now I’ve always said, I’ma go until the wheels come off. And uh … they finally have fallen off,” Edelman said while seated on the middle of the field at Gillette Stadium. “Due to an injury last year, I’ll be making my official announcement of my retirement from football. It was a hard decision, but the right decision for me and my family. And I’m honored and so proud to be retiring a Patriot.”
Foxboro Forever pic.twitter.com/x3SDDPJoTX
— Julian Edelman (@Edelman11) April 12, 2021
That video was posted not long after news broke that the Patriots had terminated Edelman’s contract due to a failed physical. Edelman dealt with a knee injury last season, which required a midseason procedure. He tried to return to the field before the end of the year but never got healthy enough to do so.
Last week, the Boston Herald reported that Edelman was “doubtful” to be able to play a full NFL season, due to the condition of his knee. That report indicated that “nothing can solve the underlying problem” with Edelman’s knee, and that despite his own desire to play next year, the decision for 2021 ultimately rested with the Patriots.
“Julian Edelman is one of the great success stories in our franchise’s history,” Patriots owner Robert Kraft said in a team release. “There aren’t many players who earn an NFL roster spot at a position they have never played before. Julian not only did that as a seventh-round draft selection, but he is retiring with the second-most career receptions in franchise history and as a three-time Super Bowl Champion, including his last as Super Bowl MVP. No one was more committed to his craft and honing his skills than Jules. His explosiveness off the line, quickness in his cuts and elusiveness after the catch made him one of the hardest players to defend throughout his career. His clutch catches in our biggest games and overall toughness made him a fan favorite. Over the past 12 years, I have enjoyed watching him grow as a player, as a person and as a father. In 2019, I had the privilege of traveling to Israel with Julian, which might be the only place where he is more popular than here in New England.”
“By any measure of what constitutes an elite NFL career – wins, championships, production – Julian has it all,” said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. “Few players can match Julian’s achievements, period, but considering his professional trajectory and longevity, the group is even more select. It is historic. This is a tribute to his legendary competitiveness, mental and physical toughness and will to excel. Day in and day out, Julian was always the same: all out. Then, in the biggest games and moments, with championships at stake, he reached even greater heights and delivered some of his best, most thrilling performances. For all Julian did for our team, what I may appreciate the most is he was the quintessential throwback player. He could, and did, do everything – catch, run, throw, block, return, cover and tackle – all with an edge and attitude that would not allow him to fail under any circumstance. Julian Edelman is the ultimate competitor and it was a privilege to coach him.”
Edelman’s story in New England will go down as one of the most unique careers in NFL history. A college quarterback at Kent State, he was drafted in the seventh round of the 2009 draft by Bill Belichick and the Patriots, with the distinction that he was drafted as a receiver. (He caught one pass in college, for 11 yards.)
He returned a punt for a touchdown in his first preseason game — inspiring the infamous Belichick/Wes Welker/Wally Pipp moment — and earned a spot on the roster that summer. He ended up catching 37 passes for 359 yards and a touchdown as a rookie, while returning six punts and 11 kickoffs, averaging 10.5 yards on punt returns and 21.9 yards on kick returns. In the Patriots’ playoff loss at home to the Ravens, Edelman — filling in for an injured Welker — was the lone bright spot, as he he caught six passes for 44 yards and two touchdowns in the loss.
He played a minor role on offense in the next three seasons before becoming one of Tom Brady’s favorite targets in 2013. He hit the 1,000-yard receiving mark that year for the first of three times in his career, while catching six touchdowns.
He contributed to a Super Bowl win in 2014, catching nine passes for 109 yards and the game-winning touchdown against Seattle to cap an incredible postseason run. (Edelman caught 26 passes for 281 yards in three games, while also throwing a now-legendary touchdown pass to Danny Amendola in the divisional round win over Baltimore.)
Two years later, he once again exploded in the playoffs with 21 receptions for 342 yards and a touchdown in three postseason games, also authoring one of the most memorable catches in Super Bowl history.
After missing the entire 2017 season with a torn ACL and missing the first four games of the 2018 season due to a PED suspension, Edelman proved plenty of doubters wrong when he turned in an outstanding season at age 32: 74 receptions, 850 yards, six touchdowns in 12 games played. In the playoffs, he caught 26 passes for 388 yards, earning Super Bowl MVP honors in the Patriots’ 13-3 win over the Rams.
All told, Edelman goes down as the NFL’s second-leading receiver of all time in the postseason with his 1,442 yards and 118 receptions, second in both categories to only Jerry Rice.
In Patriots’ history, he ranks second all time in receptions (620), fourth all time in receiving yards (6,822), and ninth in receiving touchdowns (36). He also is the franchise’s all-time leader with four punt returns for touchdowns, and he ranks third in franchise history in punt return yards (1,986).
He was also a perfect 6-for-6 as a passer in the regular season, compiling 128 passing yards and a touchdown, while completing one of his two playoff passes for 51 yards and a touchdown. He compiled 413 rregular-season rushing yards and 81 more rushing yards and a touchdown in the postseason. And he filled in as a defensive back in the 2011 season, notably covering Anquan Boldin in the Patriots’ AFC Championship Game victory.
While a debilitating knee injury is never a welcome sight for anyone, it would be hard to look at Edelman’s Patriots career — from seventh-round unknown to one of the most important pieces in the second act of the Patriots dynasty — as anything but a rousing, extraordinary success.
“It’s been the best 12 years of my life. It’s a hell of a run,” Edelman said. “And I can’t forget you, Patriot Nation. You guys have welcomed me and my family to a region we didn’t know. But now, I’m one of you. I’m gonna leave you guys with two words: Foxboro Forever.”