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Julian Edelman's season keeps ascending after rocky start

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – As Julian Edelman stood at his locker and patiently answered questions from reporters for what seemed like an eternity Sunday afternoon, he did so with a silver chain around his neck that included a pendant which read:

Lily Rose

Mary Edelman

8 lbs, 5 oz

11-30-16

Julian Edelman, wearing a silver chain that includes a pendant with his daughter's name on it — Lily Rose Mary Edelman — discussed his personal growth after Sunday's win.

Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer ago

That’s one way Edelman keeps his daughter, now 2 years old, close to his heart. The pendant is also a reminder of how Edelman’s life has changed significantly over the last two years, with some of life’s most incredible highs, but also some disappointing lows.

Two months after becoming a dad for the first time, Edelman made one of the most remarkable catches in Super Bowl history to help the Patriots cap off a stunning comeback over the Atlanta Falcons. He was riding high.

But then in August of 2017, Edelman tore his ACL in a preseason game at Detroit and he missed the rest of the season. Then this year, he served a four-game suspension to open the season for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing substances policy. He suddenly found himself down in the depths.

He's back on top again, so as the media crowd somewhat dispersed around him following Sunday’s blowout win over the Los Angeles Chargers -- in which Edelman was one of the key players of the game with nine catches for 151 yards -- the 32-year-old was asked about personal growth over the last two years.

“I mean, that’s life. Life’s about dealing with adversity and solving problems. That’s what my dad [Frank] always told me – you have to adjust, adapt and overcome,” Edelman said in a moment of reflection, before catching himself. “Last couple years have been what they’ve been, but I’m just looking forward to this next week.”

The bushy-bearded Edelman smiled as he delivered that last line, because he’s been around the Patriots long enough to know that any focus that isn’t directed at the next target usually isn’t well received by head coach Bill Belichick.

So he wanted to keep the conversation directed toward Sunday’s AFC Championship Game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium (6:40 p.m. ET, CBS), but he did make one exception, when asked what it means to him to play alongside quarterback Tom Brady.

“Honestly, it’s a dream,” he said. “I grew up in the same (San Francisco bay) area as him. I remember being at school, eighth grade, literally chanting out ‘I’m Brady!’ on the asphalt. Then you get to go out and play a bunch of games with him, it’s been very awesome and it’s been a blessing.”

The feeling is mutual.

“He’s such a great player and just a great teammate, competitor,” Brady said. “He had a great day, came up big. We needed it, and we’ll need it next week, too.”

With a night to reflect, Brady expounded on those thoughts in his weekly interview on sports radio WEEI on Monday morning.

"Nothing surprises me with Jules. He's as mentally and physically tough as anyone that has played for the Patriots," he said. "It started with his upbringing and going to junior college, and going to Kent State, and transferring to the receiver position [from quarterback] -- just worked and grinded. That's just him. That's all he knows. It's a real blessing for him in a lot of ways. I've been around to see it all happen. I have so much respect and trust in Julian, and I'm so proud of everything he's accomplished. It's really amazing to see."

Edelman, who has become more comfortable speaking out on causes that mean a lot to him over the last two years – such as supporting the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh – relayed that his connection with Brady is “still ongoing.”

“That’s the thing, playing with a guy like him who is so competitive, who is always trying to fine-tune everything,” he said. “I mean, this guy has quarterbacks coaches out here regularly, just to try to work his mechanics after practice. It rubs off. If we don’t get something right, we go out and try to do it. If that means taking extra time, it means taking extra time.

“It’s been a contagious relationship being around the best quarterback of all time, the best competitor of all time. He just continually shows it. So for a receiver it’s been a dream.”

Brady views Edelman in a similar light, having watched him overcome the odds.

"You just remember when nobody thought about Julian as what he's become, except Julian. That's a great lesson for all of us: When you believe in yourself, you can accomplish a lot of things. Julian has always had great belief in himself, and he's had an incredible career. I think yesterday was one of the best games he's ever played, at the biggest moment. That's when Julian is at his best -- in the biggest moments."

Edelman’s production as a go-to-guy for Brady in the postseason has put himself in some elite company. In recording his fifth 100-yard receiving game in the postseason, he moves into third place all-time, behind only Jerry Rice (8) and Michael Irvin (6).

Meanwhile, his nine receptions upped his career total of playoff catches to 98, moving him past Reggie Wayne (93) and in sole possession of second place behind Rice (151).

“That’s pretty cool. I grew up in the Bay Area, close to the family, and he’s the GOAT. Any time you’re in the same sentence as him, you pinch yourself,” Edelman said. “But it doesn’t mean anything unless you win.”

Edelman also moved into seventh place all-time for postseason receiving yards with 1,175. He is positioned to make a big jump with those ahead of him being:

  • Rice (2,245)

  • Michael Irvin (1,315)

  • Cliff Branch (1,289)

  • Reggie Wayne (1,254)

  • Andre Reed (1,229)

  • Hines Ward (1,181)

The chance to play in the postseason isn’t something he’s taking for granted, especially after missing last year with a knee injury.

“It was nice to be able to go out there and compete and get a win in the playoffs. That’s why you play this game,” he said. “The regular season is awesome. It’s fun. But postseason, that intensity and adrenaline you get from it is a lot. It definitely feels good to be out there.”