FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- One of the most poignant moments in the immediate aftermath of Super Bowl LI, as Patriots players and their families celebrated on the field, was receiver Julian Edelman locked in a long embrace with his father Frank.
"I know, son. Just hold on to Daddy," Frank Edelman said in that moment.
"You gotta believe," Julian said as he locked in tight.
"You gotta believe," Frank repeated.
That emotional exchange highlighted the strong bond between them, and with that in mind, I reached out to Frank late last week after Julian signed a two-year extension with the Patriots that gives him a chance to earn a maximum of $19.5 million over the next three seasons. The conversation confirmed what I thought: Edelman pushed hard for the deal because of how happy he is with the Patriots.
"Boston loves their athletes, and if you're in, you're in. Boston is also all about what Julian is; you just go to work and grind it out," Frank said. "He loves Boston and everything about the Patriots. There are also a lot of off-field opportunities if you stay in Boston. We'd love to be a Patriot for life."
Julian, 31, reinforced those thoughts in a tweet after news of the extension became public.
In some ways, the situation reminds Frank Edelman of where his son's football journey began, with the Redwood City (California) 49ers Pop Warner team. There was a special camaraderie on that team, a loving bond between the players that also extended to coaches and families. Winning obviously helps and both teams did that. The culture on both teams was also similar.
One of the Edelmans' favorite sayings is, "The early bird catches the worm and the night owl sees it all." That is in reference to the round-the-clock work ethic required to succeed, and explains why Julian is often the first Patriots player at the facility each day, and also why he values a hard-driving environment like New England's in which players compete at everything.
Frank Edelman also talked about their appreciation for an organization that gave Julian his NFL start by drafting him and developing him. When contract talks began about two months ago, Frank and Julian talked about how they never wanted to see the talks get to the point where anger or jealousy entered the equation, because the Patriots have a reputation for hard-line stances.
"For a time, you're thinking maybe it won't happen," Frank said. "So it's always nice when it does, even when you get a feeling that it might have been hard for them to do it."
Other thoughts and notes around the New England Patriots and the NFL:
2. One aspect of the Patriots' private Super Bowl ring ceremony on Friday that was different from the previous four -- and added a unique twist to what was being celebrated -- was how each player received his precious hardware.
(While the ceremony was private, the following information is based on my conversations with those at the event.)
Each ring was enclosed in a case that included a three-digit combination lock, and once owner Robert Kraft revealed the combination, everyone could open theirs at the same time (in the past, there was simply a countdown to when the rings could be opened). As anticipation built Friday night, Kraft introduced the combination by noting that it was the amount of time on the clock when the Patriots first possessed the ball in the third quarter after falling behind 28-3, and also the same amount of time on the clock in the fourth quarter when linebacker Dont'a Hightower strip-sacked Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. Kraft then explained the "8:31" combination this way:
8 -- Consecutive months the team was together from the start of training camp
3 -- Representing the three phases of the game -- offense, defense and special teams -- that have to excel to win a championship
1 -- How the 2016 team will be remembered -- as No. 1
3. Kraft had 283 diamonds set in each Super Bowl ring, which the club confirmed to ESPN's Darren Rovell, as another unique way of having the ring tell the story of what the team accomplished (specifically, coming back from a 28-3 deficit). Yet it was notable to me that the Patriots -- attempting to not draw public attention to it -- didn't advertise that fact in their initial press release, which stated that each ring had "more than 280 diamonds." The exact number of diamonds, and the significance of the number, became public only after it was explained Friday night at the ceremony.
4. When Kraft opened his remarks at the ring ceremony, he noted that it was exactly 15 years to the day of the ceremony on June 9, 2002, that celebrated the Patriots' triumph in Super Bowl XXXVI. He told those in attendance that he recalled thinking at the time it probably couldn't get any better than that -- the Patriots' first Super Bowl championship in 42 years of existence. Then he talked Friday night about how it happened again two years later and again the next year. "Three times in four years, you're thinking it will never get any better than this," he told those in attendance. Then Kraft fast-forwarded 10 years and noted Malcolm Butler's Super Bowl-saving interception, which again sparked the thought, "Can it really get any better than this?" That is, of course, until the Patriots roared back from a 28-3 deficit two years later to stun the Falcons. Then Kraft delivered the humorous line that most probably knew was coming at that point: "Can it really get any better than this?"
5. One notable absence from the Patriots' Super Bowl ring ceremony was veteran defensive end Chris Long. This offseason, he signed as a free agent with the Philadelphia Eagles. He came to New England mainly for the chance to compete for a Super Bowl ring, and although he played only 15 snaps in Super Bowl LI, he applied some critical pressure that sparked the team's comeback. When players don't attend the ceremony, alternative arrangements are made to get them their well-deserved hardware.
6. Even in a minicamp practice that Bill Belichick described as "not real football" because players aren't in full pads and there is no contact, a lot can be learned about the culture and across-the-board accountability Belichick works to create annually with his team. On Thursday, the third-unit defense (which includes mostly rookies and inexperienced players) made two substitution mistakes; first, the D had only 10 players on the field, and then the unit had one extra player (12). So Belichick sent every defender on the 90-man roster -- as well as all the defensive coaches -- for two laps around the field. The message was obvious: We're all in this together and those types of mental mistakes are unacceptable.
7. Having watched four of the Patriots' offseason practices, it seems a safe bet to say that receiver Brandin Cooks has a good chance to develop quickly into a fan favorite. He's fun to watch, bringing back memories of Deion Branch as a rookie in 2002 given the smoothness of Cooks' route running, and he complements it with top-end speed after the catch. On Thursday, Cooks and QB Tom Brady stayed on the field together for about 10 minutes after practice, going over some details on specific routes. Then they walked to the locker room together as they continue to build a rapport on and off the field.
Tom Brady and Brandin Cooks walk off the field together after spending some extra time working after practice. pic.twitter.com/ckiKFKwy2K— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) June 8, 2017
8. Did You Know: There are 88 days until the NFL season kicks off, and playing off that theme, ESPN's Stats & Information notes that Ted Ginn Jr. had the NFL's third-longest reception last season, which was 88 yards. Cooks had the longest reception in 2016, a 98-yarder. The big-play ability of both will be on display Sept. 17 in New Orleans, when Cooks and the Patriots visit Ginn and the Saints. The Saints, of course, signed Ginn after trading Cooks to the Patriots.
9. When Josh Miller was playing for the Patriots (2004-2006), and was the only punter on the roster, he was once asked if that gave him an added sense of security. He responded by saying that he knew the club had another option on speed dial. There is a similar dynamic in play in 2017 for all three Patriots specialists -- kicker Stephen Gostkowski, punter Ryan Allen and long-snapper Joe Cardona -- as they are the only players at their positions on the roster. Along those lines, the Patriots had multiple kickers, punters and snappers in for workouts early last week, probably to keep their emergency lists updated. Spencer Lanning and Drew Butler were the punters, and Alabama's Adam Griffith (kicker) and Cole Mazza (long-snapper) were part of the mix, among others.
10. The Patriots have held eight offseason practices (five voluntary organized team activities and three mandatory minicamp practices) and will wrap things up this week with three final voluntary OTAs on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. The Tuesday session is the only practice open to reporters. After that, it's officially the quiet period on the Patriots' offseason calendar, with many coaches bolting to long-awaited vacations before the start of training camp in late July, or preparing to celebrate other memorable family occasions. Bill Belichick, who regularly finds his way to Nantucket, is probably looking forward to this one more than most.