The Patriots will honor receiver Julian Edelman in a halftime ceremony on Sunday. Edelman played 12 seasons with New England and is second in franchise history with 620 catches. Winslow Townson/Associated Press Images for Panini

With no crowds at Gillette Stadium last year, fans weren’t able to watch Julian Edelman’s injury-shortened final season as a Patriot.

On Sunday, fans will get a chance to offer their appreciation for his career and say a proper goodbye when the New England Patriots honor the retired receiver at halftime of their game against the New Orleans Saints in Foxborough, Massachusetts.

Edelman, who helped lead the Patriots to three Super Bowl championships, retired at age 34 citing a series of injuries. In 12 seasons, all in New England, Edelman is second in franchise history for career catches (620) and fourth for receiving yards (6,822). He caught 36 touchdown passes.

He arrived as a converted quarterback out of Kent State. He played mostly special teams early in his career before working to become one of the best slot receivers in franchise history and one of Tom Brady’s most trusted targets.

Edelman was at his best in the postseason. Only Jerry Rice (151 for 2,245 yards) has more postseason catches and yards than Edelman’s 118 receptions for 1,442 yards. Edelman had 10 catches for 141 yards in Super Bowl LIII against the Rams and was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.

Edelman was slowed by a knee injury in 2019 and 2020. He played just six games last year and underwent surgery in October. He tried to return late but was unable to get healthy enough. He announced his retirement on Instagram in April.

“It was a hard decision, but the right decision for me and my family,” Edelman said in that announcement. “And I’m honored and so proud to be retiring a Patriot. There are a million people I have to thank. Mr. (Robert) Kraft, the Kraft family, I’ve learned so much from you guys on and off the field. Coach (Bill) Belichick, for giving me my opportunity, I’ll always love you for that.

“It’s been the best 12 years of my life. It’s a hell of a run,” Edelman added. “I can’t forget you, Patriot Nation. You guys have welcomed me and my family to a region we didn’t know. But now I’m one of you. I’m gonna leave you guys with two words: Foxborough forever.”

Edelman is currently working as a studio analyst for CBS. The Patriots didn’t announce any details about the ceremony, but no player was been issued the No. 11 he wore during his career during training camp or the regular season.

JOSH MCDANIELS is confident in Mac Jones ability to throw the football downfield.

Whether having his rookie quarterback throw it vertically or horizontally, the Patriots offensive coordinator said he has no limits on Jones, who was 22 for 30 for just 186 yards in Sunday’s win over the Jets.

“I trust him completely,” said McDaniels, when asked Tuesday if he had faith to unleash Jones, and have his rookie quarterback be as aggressive as needed to win football games. “For me, believe me, there’s not a lot that we’re holding back for him. You can call as many (deep balls) as you want. It doesn’t mean the ball is going to go there because the defense certainly has a vote in where the ball is going to end up going.”

McDaniels said so much goes into throwing deep balls, be it protection, whether the defense is blitzing, coverages, and if his receivers are getting open and running the proper route.

Jones, who ranks 31st in the league in terms of air yards (5.1), has only hit a few passes of 20 yards.

“Certainly, you want to be able to test those areas of the field as you move forward,” McDaniels said during his video call with reporters. “But I also want him to make smart decisions, I want him to protect the football, and I want him to be aggressive when it’s time to be aggressive.”

McDaniels doesn’t want Jones to heave it, just to heave it. Thus far, Jones has relied more on checkdowns. He did hit Nelson Agholor (vs. Dolphins) and Jakobi Myers (vs. Jets) on balls that traveled 20 yards or more, but hasn’t really attempted many throws down the field.

“It’s just there’s certain times when it’s the right time to do it, certain times where it’s not,” said McDaniels, “and I gotta continue to work hard myself to try to provide our offense with opportunities to do that.”

ESPN’S ALTERNATE TELECAST for Monday Night Football with brothers Peyton and Eli Manning has been a hit, and Monday provided another glimpse into what makes it so cool besides the humor and instant analysis during the game.

As the Packers drove to their first touchdown of the game against the Lions, the subject of playing the Patriots came up, and both Manning brothers had something to say about their hated rival.

Peyton: “I felt like the Packers were listening to our conversation on Friday about … they gotta come out and run the ball. I think our conversation was bugged. Kind of like the Patriots used to do back in the day.”

Eli: “We played the Patriots in that second Super Bowl in Indianapolis, and they practiced at your facility all week. Were you a little nervous going back into your facility the next year, that they didn’t have cameras in your quarterback room?”

Peyton: “Every time I played against New England, I used to go and talk to my receivers in the shower, in the far corner. ‘Don’t talk about a play next to my locker, because I know it’s bugged! I know it’s got a hot mic in there!’ We’re in the shower … very strange to have seven guys hanging out there in the shower, but take all precautions.”

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