Julian Edelman's voice was shaking. He was clearly upset as he spoke to the media following New England's 26-16 loss to the Broncos in the AFC Championship Game.
Not only was his team's season over, but it may have been Edelman's final game in a Patriots uniform. After signing a one-year deal last offseason, he is set to become a free agent.
"I'm not even thinking about that right now," Edelman said. "I'm thinking about the fellas in this locker room, the coaches, all the hard work we put in this season. I'll be thinking about that later."
Edelman finished the AFC title game with 10 catches for 89 yards and a touchdown. As he had been for much of the season, he was Tom Brady's most trusted target.
He could have added to his totals had Brady hit Edelman as Edelman got behind the Denver defense late in the first quarter. Brady held his head in frustration after misfiring on the deep ball.
"I'm very proud to be part of this team," Edelman said. "We fought through a lot of adversity, a lot of ups and downs. It's just very unfortunate that it finished not the way we wanted to."
Edelman finished the regular season with 105 catches for 1,056 receiving yards, by far the most productive season of his five-year career.
"He had a great year," Brady said, "everything he's accomplished. I couldn't be happier for him and what he's accomplished personally, but [also] his selflessness and how he's helped the team."
Whether or not the Patriots will be willing to pay market value for the 5-10, 198 pound receiver -- and what that market value will be -- remains to be seen. Edelman has, however, developed a close relationship with Brady over his time in New England, and his postgame comments showed just how much he appreciated this year's team.
"It was a pretty special group," Edelman said. "Everyone fights until the very end. It just didn't go our way. It just didn't go our way."