- Associated Press - Monday, August 28, 2017

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) - The New England Patriots were dealt their biggest hurdle of the preseason when Julian Edelman was carted off the field last week with a season-ending knee injury.

But the focus remains high for the Super Bowl champions several days before the coaching staff must pare down the roster to the 53-man limit for the regular season.

Veteran receiver Danny Amendola said he expects Edelman to still be present among his teammates even if he can’t play.

“He’ll be around,” said Amendola, one of Edelman’s best friends. “He’s a leader on this team and we’re gonna miss him on the field. He’s one of the strongest people I know. He’ll be better for it.”

Amendola said the team-first mantra has become even more important.

“Everybody’s got a job for do. We’ve been saying it for years,” he said. “That’s what I’m gonna focus on.”

With Edelman out, one player who will almost certainly see his role increase is Chris Hogan. Hogan was a revelation in his first season with New England. He caught 38 passes for 680 yards and four touchdowns during the regular season, then added two more touchdowns during the playoffs.

Hogan said someone will need to replace the leadership Edelman provided, even though he expects Edelman to be a sounding board as needed.

“He’s a guy I looked to for answers and I’ll continue to do that,” Hogan said.

The Patriots got a jump on some roster decisions over the weekend, trimming from 90 to 87 players by releasing defensive linemen Kony Ealy and Caleb Kidder, as well as tight end Matt Lengel.

Lengel’s release could be a signal that coach Bill Belichick may only carry two tight ends into the regular season. Rob Gronkowski is locked in as the starter, with offseason trade acquisition Dwayne Allen likely the front runner to be the second option.

Starters aren’t expected to play Thursday in the preseason finale against the New York Giants. But with only one cut coming Saturday, Belichick said it’s a plus to still have so many extra bodies. It allows the coaching staff to get an extra look at players they ordinarily would have already cut.

“It just gives those guys another opportunity,” he said. “Clock’s ticking. Coming down to the wire.”

Notes: New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft and his family have pledged to match all funds donated to the American Red Cross in support of the Hurricane Harvey Disaster Relief Fund up to $1 million. The team is currently working with the Red Cross to create a site to accept donations. The Patriots have fond memories in Houston, the site of their Super Bowl wins in 2017 and 2004. Kraft said the team is eager to return the favor.

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For more NFL coverage: https://www.pro32.ap.org and https://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

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Follow Kyle Hightower on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/khightower

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