Edelman helps Pats to victory in multiple ways

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Edelman helps Pats to victory in multiple ways

FOXBORO -- Earlier this month, Julian Edelman was charged with one count of indecent assault and battery for allegedly groping a woman at a Boston nightclub.

Some believed it would have resulted in his release from the New England Patriots. Those people were wrong.

And several weeks later, Edelman isn't just "still on the roster." He's playing a role in Patriots wins, like he did on Monday night against the Kansas City Chiefs.

Edelman finished Monday's 34-3 win at Gillette Stadium with two punt returns for 81 yards a touchdown. That 72-yard punt-return touchdown came with 9:24 left in the third quarter, and put New England up 24-3.

At that point, the game was out of reach. And afterwards, he spoke to the media, but only talked football.

"I've been advised not to talk about it," said Edelman, when asked if he'd like to comment on the assault and battery allegations.

Edelman said he uses football as a way to escape from all the noise that's come with his off-the-field issue.

"It's been pretty challenging, but all I can do is come out here and get away from everything else, and focus on my job," said Edelman. "And that's what I've been doing."

On Sunday night, his job was more than returning punts. Edelman also saw plenty of time on defense, mainly in third-down sets.

"I'll do whatever I can to help the team," said Edelman. "We were a little thin, and I'm not going to say no to an opportunity."

Edelman played a handful of defensive snaps in garbage time last week, but other than that, just a few times he played safety as a freshman in high school.

"It's definitely a new experience," said Edelman. "But like I said, whatever the coaches ask me to do, I'm going to go out there and try to do my best.

"It's tough because you've got to do stuff going backwards. You've got to be fluid. I mean, those guys are good. It's tough. Just a totally different experience."

Returning punts is nothing new to him, though. With his third-quarter punt return touchdown, Edelman became the fourth Patriots player with two or more punt returns for a touchdown, just one behind the leader, Troy Brown.

Edelman called Brown the "swiss army knife" after Sunday's win, acknowledging that Brown was a receiver who also returned punts and saw some time on the defensive side of the ball.

But both players are better known for their punt return skills, and Edelman proved that tonight, even if he also finished the game with a solo tackle.

Bill Belichick has been known to bring on players who can play multiple positions, and Edelman is proving to be one of those players.

"Well, he's learning how to play defense," said Belichick. "Hes got a long way to go, but hes working hard, he's getting reps and he's getting better at it. Weve been talking about the return game for quite a while. I feel like weve been close to breaking off a big play one block away or one better hold-up or just one thing, and we got it today. Our punt return team has been doing a good job. Theyve been working hard, weve been close, and it was satisfying for them and for all of us, really, for that to happen, because I do feel like weve been close.

"Those guys work hard and Julian has worked hard trying to make it happen . . . It was a big play in the game, I think it really I dont want to say put it out of reach but it certainly put a big gap in the game."

Patriots pregame rituals: Step-by-step with the players on game day

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Patriots pregame rituals: Step-by-step with the players on game day

What goes through Dont'a Hightower’s mind in the minutes before he takes the field and lowers himself into a cauldron of collisions, pain and exultation?

Not a thing.

“I rest. I literally rest,” said the Patriots Pro Bowl inside linebacker. “I don’t do anything else. I sit at my locker, I don’t listen to music. I don’t do anything out of the ordinary. I don’t look at film, I don’t look at notes. I’m just relaxed. Calm before the storm. I’ve done enough preparing, I’ve done enough notes, I’ve done enough of that stuff during the week. If I don’t know it by now, I don’t know it. It’s not gonna help me last minute. It’s only gonna make me play slower.”

By the time an NFL team hits the field – in the Patriots case, runs out of a giant, inflatable helmet while Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train” blares – they are primped, polished, taped and glistening.

But what is their day like leading up to that? I asked a few Patriots to take me through their game-day prep from wakeup to anthem to give me insight into what we don’t see.  

You can hear Hightower, Nate Solder, Alan Branch, Devin McCourty and Rob Ninkovich detail the steps they take to get game-ready. French toast is involved. So are naps. And sock preparation.

It all builds to that moment of theater that Ninkovich says is what players truly miss when they leave the game – that feeling of euphoria.

“When we finally get to run out, that’s the most exciting time in the world,” says Solder. “The crowd wasn’t there earlier when we went out there and all of a sudden, the crowd is there. Very exciting, very fun, especially with the guys you work so hard with.”

Says McCourty, “I always think when I run out of the tunnel to look up and say, ‘Thank you’ just to be able to play.”

Listen to them tell their stories here:

Belichick's game-day ritual: 'Try to coach and play good'

Belichick's game-day ritual: 'Try to coach and play good'

FOXBORO -- Bill Belichick was not in any mood to start revealing his behind-the-scenes pre-kickoff routine on game-days. The air of focus he's exhibited during his media-availability periods this week continued on Friday, particularly when he was asked about his Sunday rituals. 

When a reporter wondered if there was anything in particular Belichick does before a game, he initially said simply, "No."

A follow-up about superstitions was tossed Belichick's way next. He swatted that aside as well.

"Try to play and coach good," he explained. "Goes a long way."

There you have it. An easy-step-by-step guide on how to approach a game like a future Hall-of-Famer.

For more on Patriots pregame prep, click here.