The New England Patriots got their sparkplug back Monday.
A matter of hours after a 38-7 thrashing of the previously undefeated Miami Dolphins, Julian Edelman returned from his four-game suspension for performance enhancers, reportedly showing up in the locker room for the first time in a month before 7 a.m.
"It's good. He hasn't changed a bit," Tom Brady said later in the day. "Four weeks off, he looks good."
Added long-time teammate Matthew Slater, whose locker is next to Edelman's: "It's good to see him. Julian and I have a very unique relationship. I'm glad that he's back. I'm looking to attack the short week together."
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The Patriots host the Indianapolis Colts on Thursday night.
Edelman was not available to reporters on Monday and a club spokesman said the slot receiver will talk "Thursday at the earliest."
There is no guarantee Edelman, who missed all last season after suffering a torn ACL in a non-contact injury in August 2017 in a preseason game, will even play Thursday. But don't bet against it. He has missed the past 23 meaningful New England games.
Edelman played in three of the four preseason games before having to leave the team. He had seven catches for 49 yards, three for first downs. But if you look back past the injury, you see a player who caught 98 passes for 1,106 yards and three touchdowns in 2016.
He is third on the NFL's all-time postseason receptions list with 98, leading the Patriots in both catches and yardage in the postseason.
"We've played so much football together I really have no doubt of where he's going to be or what he's capable of," Brady said. "He's been a great player for our team and I think everyone's excited to have him back. Anytime you have great players it's going to help what you're doing.
"We all welcome him back and he's excited, ready to go, and hopefully he can go out and play great."
Brady and Edelman have played together since 2009.
"When he's out there I obviously know his body language, I know his ability to get open, my confidence in him," Brady said. "All those things come up so when you get matchups and he gets open, he gets open so quick. That's the thing about Julian, his explosiveness in the routes, in and out of breaks.
"It's very comforting for a quarterback to see a guy get open really early in a route. Julian, we ask a lot of him. When you play five different spots, I think he's capable of moving in and out of different locations and kind of specialty type plays, there's a lot that he does well."
Still, he's been idle from football more a month.
"Hopefully, it's a smooth transition," Brady said. "We've got to prepare this week. It's going to be a big week of prep and then we're going to go out there and play Thursday night and see where we're at."
NOTES: The Patriots did not practice Monday but were required to put out a hypothetical injury report because of the Thursday night game. Rob Gronkowski, who left Sunday's game with a nagging ankle injury, was listed as the only player who "did not practice" — in a practice that didn't take place.