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June 12, 2012; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman (11) catches a pass during mini camp at the Gillette Stadium practice facility. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-US PRESSWIRE

Morning Cup of Gronk

CHELSEA, Mass. — At the end of a grueling practice off a typical NFL training camp, veterans will shed their helmets and shoulder pads, walking off the practice field a bit lighter than when they arrived.

There’s a competition for reps in the Patriots [team stats] offensive backfield, but the perceived one-on-one battle could still yield a pair of winners.

For the first time since the 1990s, the backfield won’t include Kevin Faulk. It’ll be a strange adjustment for many fans, but the team has a fresh stable of backs ready to play a role in the offense.

Training camp starts this week for the Patriots, and expectations are high for the reigning AFC champs. But they aren’t just from the outside. The guys within the Gillette Stadium walls expect big things, too.

In a piece now posted on, Mike Rodak writes on the Patriots’ choice this offseason to fill their roster with veterans, not rookies.

All that’s really certain about the team’s running game heading into the 2012 season is this: For the first time since 2008, a guy whose name sounds like a law firm will not be involved in it.

WHY HE SHOULD MAKE IT: Edelman has a leg up on his competition at wide receiver because of his versatility. While Deion Branch or Donte’ Stallworth, who likely will also be fighting for a spot as a fourth receiver, don’t offer much by way of special teams, Edelman brings value to the 46-man gameday active roster by contributing in all three phases of the game. Edelman also offers the closest match to Wes Welker’s playing style if the receiver goes down with an injury. In his rookie season, Edelman was a solid fill-in when Welker missed two games. Since then, Edelman has seen his contributions on offense decrease, but has also become one of the team’s more valuable special teams players.

One reason these practices benefit the Patriots so much is they are an established program. There isn’t a lot of orientation and installation that needs to be done on either side of the ball. Offensively, the quarterback is a veteran, the offensive line is made up of returning players, the skill players have all played in Josh McDaniels’ system. The same goes for the defense.

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