FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- With youth in the Patriots' receiving corps and some other injuries in 2013, wide receiver Julian Edelman emerged as quarterback Tom Brady's go-to guy. While Edelman will continue to have a major role in the passing game, he also wants to keep contributing in another part of the game -- return punts.
The Patriots' special teams drills focused on the punt-return during Sunday's practice in full pads and Edelman broke free down the right sideline on one return.
"That's a part of the game [punt return] that gave me an opportunity to make this team," Edelman said. "I love returning punts. I want to do that and if they ask me to do that, I'm going to do it."
Finch's process of learning punt returns reminded Edelman of his early days with Patriots.
"You guys remember when I was a rookie bobbling the ball around everywhere and getting booed by the crowd," Edelman said of one training camp practice. "But he's just got to get some experience, repetition."
This recollection of how much work it takes to be an effective punt returner fuels Edelman's desire to hone his craft.
"You got to work on catching punts, finding the tip of the ball -- if it turns over, if it doesn't -- what foot punter it is, the trajectory of the punt, what return you have -- if it's a return, if it's not a return -- the situation in the game," Edelman said. "All that stuff. It comes with experience. I still have to try in practice every day to improve what I have to do because it's a craft. If you don't do it every day, it will slip away."
In the past, Edelman has been an elite punt returner -- cutting and juking his way through punt coverage units. Though last season, when he averaged 10.7 yards per return, Edelman was forced to call more fair catches (23) than in other seasons.
"When you get 10 yards that's your goal and when guys are working together you get a little more which is great," Edelman said about the importance of punt returns. "But our number one job on that unit is to get the ball in the offense's hand and make the right decision."