FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) -- New England Patriots star wide receiver Julian Edelman will miss the 2017 season after tearing the ACL in his right knee in a preseason game.
The Patriots announced Saturday that Edelman, Tom Brady's favorite target and one of the NFL's most clutch receivers, would be sidelined all season after the non-contact injury in the first quarter of Friday night's preseason game at Detroit.
The 31-year-old Edelman headed downfield after a catch and when he planted his right foot into the turf, he tore the ligament.
"Julian is a great competitor, works hard, is tough, does all of the things that you ask him to do. I feel badly for him, of course," coach Bill Belichick said Saturday.
"We feel badly for Julian and hope that he will have a speedy and complete recovery. But yeah, the team will have to move on and we'll have to compete in this season without him."
Edelman, whose spectacular fourth-quarter reception helped the Patriots' record comeback win in the Super Bowl in February, signed a two-year contract extension earlier this year. He has been, by far, Brady's top pass catcher with 436 receptions over the past four seasons, including the playoffs.
A quarterback in college at Kent State, Edelman joined the Patriots in 2009 and became one of Brady's most reliable receivers the next year. Last season was one of his best with 98 catches for 1,106 yards. He's also a dangerous punt returner.
Brady used the word "Gladiator" on Instagram in reference to Edelman.
Fortunately for New England, it is deep at receiver after trading for Brandin Cooks. It gets back Rob Gronkowski, the NFL's most-feared tight end, from a back injury, and has Chris Hogan, who emerged last year as a quality wideout. Veteran Danny Amendola figures to see time in the slot with Edelman sidelined.
"Julian will be here on a regular basis doing his rehabilitation and so forth. So you never really move on from that standpoint," Belichick said. "A player that's released, that's a little different situation. But this team has to move forward with the resources that we have, and unfortunately we've lost one and an important one. But as a team we still have to move forward and that's what we'll do. I guess that process has already started."
New England also cut defensive end Kony Ealy, whom it acquired in a trade with Carolina in March. It was a surprising move -- if anything Belichick does with his roster can be considered surprising.
Ealy, 25, spent three seasons with the Panthers and was best known for having three sacks in Super Bowl 50 against Denver.
"I do think he was making progress and getting better and was really working hard. It's just one of those things that didn't work out or wasn't going to work out," Belichick said. "It's nobody's fault.
"It gives him an opportunity about a week ahead of next week to hopefully create a better opportunity for himself. I think he deserved that. He did everything we asked him to do. It just didn't work out for either one of us like we hoped it would."