FOXBORO -- It's hard to get a feel for Julian Edelman's future.
The receiver returned to football just yesterday after breaking a foot in December.
"It was great," Brady said. "Julian, he's been working his butt off to get back out here. I'm right next to him in the locker room so I see his excitement every day, the excitement he brings to the practice field. He's going out and working hard just like everyone else."
But is he ready to work that hard? During the end of practice Edelman went hard on a corner route and came off gingerly. He took his cleats off and spoke with trainers before heading to the locker room with the rest of the team.
"I didn't see that," Brady said after a long pause. "He's a tough kid -- mentally, physically -- and he's battled a lot over the course of his career. I know he's been working hard in rehab and hopefully it continues to go well."
There Brady raised, unintentionally, a solid point against Edelman: The 27-year old has indeed battled a lot to get on the field. For all his potential, he just can't stay healthy.
Edelman played in 11 games his rookie year, limited by an ankle injury and a broken arm. His 15 games played in 2010 is a career-best, but he caught just seven passes for 86 yards. The following season he played in only 13 games because of injury, and took as many snaps (27) at defensive back as he did receiver. Last year Edelman broke his hand Week 3 against the Ravens, returned in October, then broke his foot in the regular season finale.
The Patriots like his production when he's able. It's hard to remember now, but Edelman got the nod over Brady's favorite target, Wes Welker, a few times in the early weeks of 2012. You'd think it smooth sailing to a roster spot with Welker gone to Denver. That and the fact there isn't another receiver on the payroll who's caught a pass from Brady in a game.
Something the quarterback said makes you wonder though. Brady was talking about the challenges of having seven targets with two or less years of NFL experience.
"Offensive football is about 11 guys being on the same page and really being able to anticipate what each other are trying to do. A challenging part of offense is when you've got new guys and they're not really sure when I'm throwing it, I'm not really sure when they're going to break, and a lot of it we just have to work out."
Edelman has the longest Patriots backlog of the bunch. Despite his missing spring workouts and mini-camp, shouldn't those past reps help?
Maybe only if Brady's words about the rest of the team -- "You can't go out and miss three or four days of practice because you just get so far behind, especially this time of year" -- don't apply.