FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Something seemed off with Julian Edelman on Thursday.

At the start of practice, the New England Patriots wide receiver was nowhere to be found as the offense and defense were going through their walkthrough drills. Five-to-10 minutes after the first whistle, Edelman walked up the concrete stairs leading to the practice fields, something was still amiss.

After practicing more than he had all offseason on Wednesday, Edelman barely participated in the Patriots’ last practice of the three-day minicamp. After catching passes from Tom Brady 24 hours earlier, Edelman was stationed on the sideline. At one point, Patriots owner Robert Kraft walked onto the field and spoke with him.

After practiced ended, the mystery was solved.

According to ESPN, Edelman is facing a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s performance enhancing substance policy.

The 32-year-old, who is coming off a season-ending ACL injury, is reportedly appealing the suspension. If the appeal is denied, Edelman will be forced to sit out the first four games of the 2018 regular season, missing contests against Houston, Jacksonville, Detroit and Miami.

Edelman would also lose $470,588.20 in base salary. He also wouldn’t be allowed in the Patriots facility to work out or practice during the suspension.

This would mark the second PED suspension for the Patriots in the last three seasons. In 2016, Rob Ninkovich was suspended for four games after testing positive for a banned substance. This marks the first time in Edelman’s career that he’s faced any type of drug related suspension from the NFL.

The Patriots lost receiver Danny Amendola this offseason when he signed with the Miami Dolphins. With Tom Brady’s top slot receiver gone, Edelman was expected to pick up more of the slack inside the numbers. With Edelman out with an injury last season, Amendola was key on third-down plays, and in general, when Brady was in trouble. The quarterback also relied on Brandin Cooks, who has been traded to Los Angeles.

Brady, who didn’t report to OTAs and missed seven practices this spring, is already behind when it comes to getting on the same page as some of the Patriots new targets such as Jordan Matthews, Cordarrelle Patterson and others. Someone like Matthews, for example, said he first met Brady this past week as minicamp opened. The veteran, who played in Buffalo and Philadelphia, is bigger than the typical slot receiver, he’s had success in that position.

Other players who could factor in include sixth-round slot receiver Braxton Berrios and Riley McCarron, another slot receiver who was on the Patriots practice squad last year. The depth chart also includes Chris Hogan, Kenny Britt, Malcolm Mitchell, Phillip Dorsett and Cody Hollister.

Earlier on Thursday, quarterback Tom Brady addressed the media for the first time at the Patriots’ minicamp.

“It’s obviously important for everybody and our coaches do a great job of getting us ready,” he said. “Just some personal reasons for me (skipping voluntary workouts), but I’m here now and focused on what I need to do, like I always am, and this year.”

Amid reports of a rift in the organization involving himself, Coach Bill Belichick and Kraft, Brady said his relationship with Belichick is, “great. We’ve always had a great relationship.”

“I’ve been here for a long time and I love this team and I love this organization and I love playing quarterback for him,” Brady added. “I loved it last year and I’m having a lot of fun now, so that’s obviously what’s most important to me.”

He refused to speak about any possible reworking of his contract.

“I’ve never talked about my contract,” he said. “I’ve never brought up money, I think for a lot of reasons that I’ve said over the years. Those things are personal.”

Brady labeled his offseason following the Super Bowl loss to Philadelphia as “good.”

“I always try to figure out different things I need to do in the offseason to prepare myself and be the best I can be,” he said. “I don’t think this offseason was any different for me. I thought about the things I need to do and focused on those things so I can be the best I can be when training camp comes.”

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