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Can the Patriots’ Gunner Olszewski step into the role vacated by Julian Edelman? He certainly thinks so

Gunner Olszewski averaged 17.3 yards on 20 punt returns last season, earning first-team All-Pro honors.
Gunner Olszewski averaged 17.3 yards on 20 punt returns last season, earning first-team All-Pro honors.Matthew J. Lee/Matthew J. Lee/Globe staff

Gunner Olszewski has been fielding practice punts from Jake Bailey for the last two years, so it was only appropriate Olszewski received the news from his punter.

Bailey was letting Olszewski know that he’d been named the NFL’s first-team All-Pro punt returner after averaging 17.3 yards on 20 returns. Bailey, too, earned the honors after averaging 48.7 yards per punt.

“Man, in typical fashion it was Jake Bailey. He’s given me a lot of good news,” Olszewski said with a laugh Thursday afternoon. “He called me, I think, and he was like, ‘Congrats, Bro.’ And it was awesome because me and him both made it on that list. So, Jake’s usually on top of that stuff. He’s my eyes and ears.”

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After two seasons spent mostly on special teams, Olszewski is looking to expand his duties in 2021, and he will be in the mix to help fill the snaps and production of retired Julian Edelman.

Olszewski appears on a similar career path as Edelman, a player who has had a huge impact on the former college cornerback’s young career.

“I don’t think I can put it into words," said Olszewski. “He took me under his wing — me and Jakobi [Meyers] both, kind of being underdog receivers. [Meyers] was a former quarterback, and me, I didn’t play receiver, so [Edelman] kind of showed us the ropes. [Edelman retiring] sucked, but I know how he is. He wants to be his best out there, and if he doesn’t feel he can do that, he doesn’t even want to be out there.

“He’s the ultimate competitor, and that’s what I learned from him. Toughest dude I’ve ever played with."

Olszewski said he’s spent the majority of the offseason in Foxborough and there’s a sense of excitement among the players to get to work, especially considering at this time last year they were uncertain if there would be a season due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Olszewski said his goals are “bigger, faster, stronger," as he works through Phase 1 of the Patriots’ offseason program.

Gunner Olszewski took the high road on this return against the Jets last season. The 22-year-old carved out a niche as an excellent returner in 2020.
Gunner Olszewski took the high road on this return against the Jets last season. The 22-year-old carved out a niche as an excellent returner in 2020.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

“I’m just eating, running, and lifting. That’s the hustle," he said.

Rookie Bledsoe signed

The Patriots signed safety Joshuah Bledsoe, the first of their two sixth-round picks, according to an ESPN report. The 5-foot-11-inch, 201-pounder had 131 tackles and 19 passes defended in 46 games at Missouri. Bledsoe’s deal is for four years and $3.68 million with a $200,000 signing bonus … Bledsoe is the third draftee to sign (William Sherman and Tre Nixon) ahead of this weekend’s rookie minicamp … The team also worked out a couple of veterans in cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick and guard Alex Redmond, according to NFL Media. Kirkpatrick started 11 of 14 games and collected three interceptions with the Cardinals last season. A nine-year veteran out of Alabama, Kirkpatrick has 13 career picks. He could fill the veteran void left by Jason McCourty’s departure to Miami … Redmond played in 32 games (24 starts) over the last four seasons with the Bengals.

It’ll cost you

According to VividSeats.com, Tom Brady’s return to New England on Oct. 3 is the most-coveted ticket in NFL history, with the average going rate at $1,376. The game tops Vivid’s list of 10 most-coveted tickets for the 2021 season, with Cowboys at Patriots on Oct. 27 coming in sixth at $602. Six of the games on the list are in Las Vegas … Tom Brady Sr. called into “Zolak and Bertrand” on 98.5 The Sports Hub Thursday morning and said, among other things, “I saw the schedule come out and I started salivating when I saw that we [the Buccaneers] play the Patriots in the fourth game of the season and we’re coming up there to make our record 4-0.” Brady Sr. also said his family still considers Boston their “second home” and that the Patriots are his favorite “AFC team.”

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Jim McBride can be reached at james.mcbride@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globejimmcbride.