WELCOME TO THE PARTY: Patriots receiver Julian Edelman, shown celebrating with the Minutemen at Gillette Stadium after a preseason victory, returns this week from his four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance- enhancing drugs. Staff file photo by Matt Stone
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FOXBORO — It’s been awhile since Tom Brady connected with Julian Edelman in a real NFL game.

The last pass completed between the pair was in overtime of the Patriots’ Super Bowl LI victory against Atlanta, and a lot has happened to both of them since that night in February 2017.

Edelman tore his ACL last preseason, then was suspended the first four games this year for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances. Brady nearly led the Pats to another championship despite the absence of his go-to guy in the midst of a trying and controversial season for the Pats.

Yesterday, Edelman came back from his suspension as the Pats prepare to host Indianapolis Thursday night. He wasn’t available to the media, but Brady had a lot to say about him.

To start, he didn’t think it would take all that long for the duo to get back on the same page.

“Well, I think we’ve played so much football together. I really have no doubt where (Edelman) is going to be at, what he’s capable of,” Brady said. “He’s been a great player for our team. I think everyone’s excited to have him back, and anytime you add great players, it’s going to help what we’re doing.”

Edelman’s return should help Brady, who’s been visibly and vocally frustrated so far this season, in a big way. Some of that frustration subsided after Sunday’s rout of Miami, but that doesn’t change the fact that there have been issues in the passing game.

Brady threw a pair of uncharacteristically bad interceptions in the win, and he’s up to four picks in four games this season. He’s yet to throw for 300 yards in an outing, and the Patriots offense is 22nd in the league in passing yards per game.

With a familiar target like Edelman back in the fold, things should get a little easier. Brady has one of his all-time security blankets back, a player who’s been as reliable for him as nearly any other pass-catcher in his career (Edelman trails Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski in all-time receptions from Brady).

“When he’s out there, I obviously just — I know his body language, I know his ability to get open, my confidence in him,” Brady said. “All those things come up. So, when you get matchups and he’s open, he gets it.”

Patriots receivers have often struggled to gain separation in man-to-man coverage so far this season, something Edelman should remedy immediately upon his return to the lineup.

“He gets open so quick. I think that’s the thing about Julian — his explosiveness in the routes, in and out of breaks,” Brady said. “It’s very comforting for a quarterback to see a guy get open really early in a route.”

As someone who has excelled playing in the slot and on the outside, Edelman brings versatility and unpredictability to the team’s passing game. Having him back on the field should help the Pats get back in their rhythm of creating and exploiting mismatches by lining players up in different spots across the formation.

“We ask a lot of him. He plays a lot of different spots. I think he’s capable of moving in and out of different locations and it’s kind of specialty-type plays,” Brady said. “There’s a lot that he does well, and hopefully it’s a smooth transition.”

With the trust Brady has in him, his knowledge of the offense and a receiver corps that certainly needs a playmaker, there’s no reason to think Edelman won’t be thrown right back in the mix.

“I know he was itching to go and he wants to get down there and show everyone he is ready to go,” Brady told WEEI Monday morning.