Julian Edelman missed the entire 2017 season due to a torn ACL. Now, the New England Patriots wide receiver could see his return to NFL action delayed even further, as Edelman reportedly faces a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy.

Julian Edelman PED suspension
Julian Edelman is facing a four-game suspension for a violation of the NFL’s performance-enhancing substance policy. (Image: Greg M. Cooper/USA Today)

The suspension was first reported by ESPN on Thursday, which cited league sources for their story. If the suspension holds up on appeal, Edelman would miss the first four games of the 2018 regular season.

The 32-year-old Edelman has become one of the most important member of the Patriots offense in recent seasons. In 2016, he caught 98 passes for 1,106 yards and three touchdowns, adding another touchdown in the playoffs. Edelman has also sometimes served as a punt or kick returner for New England.

Edelman Apologies                               

In a statement released via Instagram on Friday, Edelman expressed shock over the suspension.

“I am very sorry – I don’t know what happened,” Edelman wrote. “I’ve taken many, many tests obviously over the course of my career, and nothing like this has ever happened. I apologize to the Kraft family, my coaches, teammates and fans.”

The suspension would not impact Edelman’s ability to participate in offseason activities, including preseason games. However, he would miss regular-season contests against the Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Detroit Lions and Miami Dolphins.

Edelman has worked with Alex Guerrero, Tom Brady’s trainer, at the TB12 Sports Therapy Center. Guerrero quickly released a statement preemptively distancing himself and his facility from any allegations that might come their way.

“Elite athletes sometimes work with multiple coaches and health professionals as part of their training,” Guerrero said in his statement. “Here at our facility, we take a natural, holistic, appropriate and, about all, legal approach to training and recovery for all of our clients. And anyone who would suggest otherwise is irresponsible, and just plain wrong.”

Who Will Pats Turn to at WR?

There has been no information released as to the substance that Edelman tested positive for. While suspensions under the PED policy are rarely overturned, there have been exceptions, such as when Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman won an appeal in 2012.

Losing Edelman could be a major blow for the Patriots offense. New England had already lost both Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola in the offseason, leaving the team shorthanded at wide receiver. Several players are expected to vie for roster spots in the preseason, including Jordan Matthews, Cordarrelle Patterson, Kenny Britt, and sixth-round draft pick Braxton Berrios, among others.

While the loss of Edelman could put the Patriots in a hole early in the season, there’s no reason to think it should seriously impact their status as the favorites to win the Super Bowl next year. New England is a 5/1 favorite according to William Hill, ahead of the defending champion Philadelphia Eagles (9/1) and other contenders including the Steelers (10/1), Packers (10/1), Rams (10/1), and Vikings (12/1).