The New England Patriots lost one of their most consistent stars to an injury on Friday night. Wide receiver Julian Edelman -- known in some circles as the Super Bowl hero from last season -- needed to be carted off the field during a preseason game with an injury that looked greatly concerning. The nature of his injury could mean a serious diagnosis for the star, although that probably won't become clear for several days or more.

Edelman suffers knee injury

During the very first drive of the Patriots' game with the Detroit Lions, a play occurred that could be a bad premonition for the team's season. Edelman beat linebacker Jarrad Davis on a route, catching the ball at the 29-yard line.

After running for just over ten yards, he planted his right foot in an effort to get around safety Tavon Wilson. Almost immediately, the wide receiver reached for the back of his right knee, suggesting that something was wrong.

Edelman managed to limp off the field on his own, but eventually needed a cart to take him back to the locker room after a quick evaluation on the sideline. At halftime, coach Bill Belichick had no update on his wide receiver's condition. Prior to the injury, he had three catches for 52 yards. The Patriots were able to pick up the pieces for the rest of the game, but that might not be the case if it's the type of injury that has long-term ramifications; as a non-contact injury, that has to be the fear right now.

How the Patriots will cope

Edelman has been the team's best wide receiver for the last half decade.

He immediately filled the void left by Wes Welker, becoming one of the top receivers in the entire league, thanks in large part to Tom Brady. He made a heroic catch in last year's Super Bowl to keep the Patriots alive, then signed a two-year extension [VIDEO] with the team during the offseason.

The Patriots are prepared to withstand losses in the receiving corps, however -- even to players as important as Edelman. They still count Chris Hogan and Danny Amendola among their ranks. Tight end Rob Gronkowski should be on the verge of a healthy season. They brought in the speedy Brandin Cooks in a trade with the New Orleans Saints. Oh, and they have Brady, who can make even the most mediocre receiver look like a Pro Bowl player. The team doesn't want to play without Edelman this season, and maybe they won't have to; if they do, however, the team is not going to miss a beat when it comes to being an elite offense.