Edel­man gets help grind­ing into shape

Boston Herald - - NHL SCOREBOARD - By KEVIN DUFFY Twit­ter: @Kev­inRDuffy

FOXBORO — The fi­nal work­out of Ju­lian Edel­man’s in­tense Septem­ber train­ing took him to the Union Point Sports Com­plex, an in­door turf field in Wey­mouth.

Edel­man ar­rived with an in­ter­est­ing crew.

There was Mark Hartsell, the 44-year-old Brock­ton na­tive and Bos­ton Col­lege grad­u­ate who spent five years in and out of the NFL. He was the quar­ter­back.

There was Rob Ninkovich, the for­mer do-it-all Pa­tri­ots line­backer who now dab­bles in lo­cal me­dia. He pro­vided cov­er­age near the line of scrim­mage as Edel­man ran routes.

And then there was a cameo from Frank Edel­man, who dropped by to en­sure that even ba­sic warmups be­came ex­ceed­ingly dif­fi­cult for his son.

He’s been do­ing that Edel­man’s en­tire life.

“At his age, he’d jump right in,” Hartsell said. “He was pulling his arms, he made ev­ery catch harder.”

If Hartsell’s passes were on tar­get, Frank de­manded in­ac­cu­racy. If Edel­man was jog­ging to his left, Frank in­sisted that the ball be thrown be­hind him to the right. Hartsell obliged.

Frank even got in the mix at safety when Edel­man ran routes against Ninkovich.

“Meet­ing Ju­lian’s dad was an awe­some ex­pe­ri­ence, just to watch them in­ter­act,” Hartsell said, who noted the en­tire month of Septem­ber was a thrill.

Five days a week, Hartsell served as Edel­man’s per­sonal quar­ter­back, an in­di­rect backup to Tom Brady. He re-ar­ranged his sched­ule — he works in med­i­cal sales — to squeeze in the throw­ing ses­sions in the early af­ter­noon. Each night, Hartsell awaited a text from Brian McDonough, who owns Edge Per­for­mance Sys­tems in Foxboro and trained Edel­man while the re­ceiver served his sus­pen­sion. McDonough would

— FOR­MER BROCK­TON/BC QUAR­TER­BACK MARK HARTSELL On work­ing out with Ju­lian Edel­man

in­form Hartsell of the time and lo­ca­tion for the fol­low­ing af­ter­noon; Edel­man pre­ferred to switch up the scenery to keep his work­outs pri­vate.

The group, mi­nus Edel­man’s dad, who ar­rived only for the fi­nal week­end, fre­quently con­vened on a grass field be­hind the Ah­ern Mid­dle School in Foxboro. They worked on the soc­cer field across from Har­vard Sta­dium, found a grass field at The Rivers School in We­ston and vis­ited Mil­ton Academy where the stu­dent body no­ticed.

“I turn around and there’s like three kids and then there’s 15 and there’s like 100 kids watch­ing,” Hartsell said.

The pur­pose of the work­out was sim­ple: Edel­man sought to repli­cate game speed and tim­ing so he could seam­lessly tran­si­tion when he re­turned from his four-game PED sus­pen­sion. Wear­ing hel­met and shoul­der pads, he started at his own goal line, ran six straight plays, usu­ally five routes and a “run­ning play,” in which he would charge at Ninkovich to hone his run-block­ing skills. “Full blast,” Hartsell said. Edel­man’s routes were of the op­tion va­ri­ety, so he’d read Ninkovich’s lo­ca­tion and make the proper ad­just­ment. They’d do this all the way down the field, and Hartsell’s sixth and fi­nal pass would hit Edel­man in the end zone. They’d rest as they walked back to the op­po­site goal line, and then they’d im­me­di­ately re­peat the set. Edel­man aimed for a daily tally of 50-60 routes, a lit­tle more than what he’d run in a typ­i­cal game.

It took a while for Hartsell, who helps coach at Bridge­wa­ter-Rayn­ham and con­ducts quar­ter­back train­ing ses­sions, to be­come ac­cus­tomed to Edel­man’s world-class agility.

“He ran the first route and I looked back (at McDonough) and was like ‘Oh God, that’s not even real,’” Hartsell said, laugh­ing. “It’s like an In­di­anapo­lis 500 race car. His build ben­e­fits the way he runs. He’s built low to the ground like a race car — the big, wide tires. He comes in and out of breaks full speed and he’s zero to 100 in two steps. That’s why he can’t be cov­ered.”

One af­ter­noon in the pour­ing rain, Hartsell ap­proached the car as McDonough and Edel­man pulled up.

“You guys still want to do this?” he asked.

“This is a good op­por­tu­nity to get bet­ter,” Edel­man told him. Un­sur­pris­ingly, Edel­man’s fo­cus and in­ten­sity stood out as much as his in­cred­i­ble quick­ness.

“I have two boys, and I made sure they came and watched,” Hartsell said. “The sec­ond he put his hel­met on and started the work­out with Brian and my­self, he never looked at his phone once, it was all busi­ness.”

Edel­man be­gan ev­ery morn­ing at the Celtics fa­cil­ity. He’d get to the field around 11 a.m. for speed work, agility and con­di­tion­ing. Ninkovich would par­tic­i­pate. Edel­man would run routes and catch passes from Hartsell. And then he’d head to McDonough’s gym or the Har­vard gym for a lift. A full day.

On the Satur­day be­fore he re­turned from sus­pen­sion, the crew as­sem­bled at the Ah­ern school. This ses­sion was not nearly as gru­el­ing, as Edel­man fo­cused ex­clu­sively on his hands. Hartsell must have thrown 300 passes. His arm was fi­nally sore.

Just five days later, Hartsell trav­eled to Las Ve­gas for a sales meet­ing. He caught Thurs­day night’s game af­ter work, and found him­self root­ing so hard for Edel­man that “it was kind of like watch­ing some­one in your own fam­ily play­ing.”

“Ob­vi­ously it’s fan­tas­tic that he’s back, but I kind of miss do­ing it,” Hartsell said. “It was the high­light of my day. I’m 44. At work. I coach high school foot­ball. The high­light of my day was meet­ing them and throw­ing. I loved it.”

‘The high­light of my day was meet­ing them and throw­ing. I loved it.’

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF MARK HARTSELL

TEAM­WORK: Ju­lian Edel­man (11) poses with (from left) Mark Hartsell, Brian McDonough and Frank Edel­man fol­low­ing a work­out in Foxboro.

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