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Why Edelman has seen less playing time this season

Foxborough, Mass. — Julian Edelman hasn't been himself. To this point, he hasn't been quite the same in terms of his usual production.

The Patriots veteran wide receiver, who has been listed on recent injury reports as being limited in practice with a knee problem, is aware of the drop-off, and appears focused on amending his recent struggles.

"I let my team down a little bit last week and I'm looking forward to this week to get out there and try to help them," Edelman said Friday, during an appearance on WEEI's "The Greg Hill Show."

Edelman had a rough game in the Patriots' loss against the Chiefs almost two weeks ago, producing just three catches for 35 yards and he had a costly drop in the fourth quarter when a pass from Jarrett Stidham slipped off his hands and into the arms of Tyrann Mathieu, who returned it for a touchdown that sealed the game.

Drops have been a troubling theme for Edelman, who has 11 of them since the start of last season. No other receiver in the NFL has more than eight in that span.

Edelman explained he needed to get out of that habit quickly.

"I think you have to be on to the next week," Edelman said. "I mean, it's not the first time I've dropped a ball, probably won't be the last. It's football and that's how it goes. Sometimes you're going to be hot, sometimes you're not. My dad always preached to me when I was a kid, you have to have a short memory. regardless if something was good or something was (bad). ...

"It's something that you have to fix and it's what we're doing in practice, that's what I'm trying to do all the time, so your job as a receiver is to get open and catch the ball. I let my team down a little bit last week and I'm looking forward to this week to get out there and try to help them."

The status of this Sunday's rescheduled game against the Broncos was up in the air due to another positive COVID-19 test that canceled Friday's practice, but the point remains that Edelman, aside from an eight-catch, 179-yard performance in the Pats' Week 2 loss, has been limited this season. The wide receiver has seen a significant decrease in his playing time through four weeks, as he's played in just 68% of the Patriots' total offensive snaps. That's down from 87% over the 2019 season.

Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels hinted that the Patriots are trying to keep the 34-year-old Edelman fresh so that he can be at his best when they need him.

"It's a long season, obviously," McDaniels said. "There's obviously certain games where Julian plays a really large number of snaps, and then there's some other situations where we can kind of give him a rest and get him out of some of those other scenarios that maybe he's been in in the past but probably doesn't have to do as much of that stuff at this point in his career. Certainly, you know, when you got players that, you know, you just want to make sure you manage them and be smart, handle them the right way. He does a great job of communicating that.

"We try to do a good job during the course of a week of practice of doing the right things and being smart about what we're asking him to do during the course of games so he can be the most productive he can be. Obviously, he's a big part of what we do and we want to try to make sure we can sustain that throughout the course of a long season."

Fears praises White, Harris

The Patriots have continued to provide James White with full support after the running back tragically lost his father on Sept. 21. White returned for the Patriots' game against the Chiefs on Oct. 5, and his handling of the situation has touched everyone in the organization, including his running backs coach Ivan Fears.

"It really has been inspiring to watch him deal with that," Fears said. "That was an incredible event and I thought he handled it extremely well. It's still there. We're still dealing with it. It's not something you just walk away from in a couple weeks. It's something that's going to take some time. I think James is a damn good man. He is a strong person. He's bounced back with this team.

"I'm so proud of what he's done and what he's been able to do. I just can't say enough about him. I really can't say enough about him. That's a special person. His dad was a special person and it shows in his son. That boy is ... I shouldn't call him a boy. That's a man. That man is special. He really is. I love him. I really do."

Fears was also complimentary of Damien Harris, who he continues to be excited about. The second-year running back rushed for 100 yards — which included a 41-yard run — in the loss to the Chiefs, his first game of the season, and the coach thinks they need more of him.

"He's fresh. He looked good. He really did. He's explosive. I thought you can see that he needs more and more playing time," Fears said. "He needs more experience in some things that will help him be more productive than he was (vs. KC). He had a good day, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying anything about that. There's a lot of room there to grow. There's definitely a lot of room there to grow, and I think a lot of it is just being in the game and having live experience. So I look forward to seeing him. I expect him to get a lot better. I think he'll get better and better as he goes."

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