Julian Edelman says 'atrocious' film sessions led to NFL retirement

Edelman explains how 'atrocious' film sessions led him to retire originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

A year and a half removed from his NFL retirement, Julian Edelman admits he misses playing. But when he stepped away from the New England Patriots in the spring of 2021, he knew it was the right call.

The veteran wide receiver had been dealing with a painful knee injury that forced him to miss 10 games that season. And while a failed physical in April 2021 was the official impetus for his retirement, Edelman admitted another factor played a big role -- watching film of himself playing at less than 100 percent.

"Atrocious. That’s honestly why I retired," Edelman said on The Ringer's "The Ryen Russillo Podcast" about watching himself on film. "When you start looking old -- it’s not even just the games, it’s the practices, the body language. I mean, I wanted to throw up. That’s why I had to retire."

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Edelman dealt with several injuries late in his 12-year NFL career, including a torn ACL that forced him to miss the entire 2017 season and a shoulder ailment that required surgery in Jan. 2020. As the ailments piled up, Edelman recognized that he had become the same aging veteran he would have eagerly exploited earlier in his career.

"When you’re a younger player – I remember you play a couple guys and they’re in their absolute prime when you’re still trying to figure things out," Edelman said. "And then you figure things out and it’s like four or five years later, and that guy that you still are battling who was a badass dude has diminished – that’s blood in the water. I’m going to embarrass him every time. I’m going to try to light him up, because I remember how hard it was and how he used to embarrass me.

"The blood was in the water. Guys were going to come after me. I had to get out."

Edelman, who attended a Patriots joint practice with Josh McDaniels' Las Vegas Raiders this week, has left the door slightly open for a comeback, recently hinting at the idea that he would join a contender midseason to aid in a playoff push. The 36-year-old also admitted to Russillo that he still does football-themed workouts.

Edelman is realistic, though, and knows that while he feels healthy now, he probably wouldn't be able to meet his own high standards if he tried to suit up again.

"I love the game too much. … Once you see it go, you’re like, 'Yeah, this ain’t me. I can’t do that,'" Edelman said.

Fortunately, Edelman has plenty going on in retirement: He's an analyst on "Inside the NFL" on Paramount+ and is co-hosting a new podcast called "Games with Names."