Wes Welker hasn’t been surprised old friend Tom Brady has bounced back from a rough start. (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
FOXBORO — Count Wes Welker among those who haven’t been surprised by Tom Brady‘s recent renaissance.
Welker, who played with Brady and the Patriots from 2007 through 2012 before joining the Broncos, still maintains a friendship with the New England quarterback.
“I’m not surprised at all,” the Denver receiver said Wednesday. “I’ve seen it 100 times there, where it’s one bad week and everything’s falling apart … it’s one week and you can never really judge anything off that, and you knew they were going to bounce back from it.”
Welker said he and Brady “text back and forth” on occasion during the season, but it’s never really about football. (“It’s just really how he’s doing, the family and how my wife’s doing and stuff like that,” he said.) He said there probably won’t be much communication this week.
“This isn’t really a friend week this week,” he said. “So I don’t think so.”
Welker is in the second year of a of a two-year contract he signed with Denver in the spring of 2013, and has 19 catches for 181 yards and a touchdown this season with the Broncos. It represents a down year for the 5-foot-9, 190-pounder, who went from 118 catches in his final season with the Patriots (2012) to 73 last year, to being on pace for roughly 40 this season.
However, he sounds OK with it, if that means more wins for Denver.
“Yeah it’s definitely been different, for sure,” he acknowledged. “Would I want the ball more? Yes. As long as we’re winning games and we’re being productive on offense and doing those things, I’m good with however we get that done.
“It’s kind of strange being … I feel like the weak link of our offense. [But] if I’m the weak link, we’re going to be OK. I’m excited about the guys we have and the camaraderie that we have together and really pulling for each other.”
He said he’s placing no added pressure on quarterback Peyton Manning to get him the ball Sunday because he’s going up against his old mates.
“I just want [Manning] to go play his game and whoever is open is open,” he said. “I’m not going to put any pressure on him or anything else, [saying], ‘Hey I really need the ball because I’m playing my old team’ or anything like that. I just want to go out there and whatever we need to do to win the game, that’s first and foremost for me. Hopefully, I make some plays along the way, but however that happens is how it happens.”
The former New England pass catcher drew the ire of his old coach when he was involved in a collision with Aqib Talib in last year’s AFC title game. The cornerback suffered an injury that knocked him out of the game, and Bill Belichick hammered him the next day for the play.
However, Belichick said Wednesday he was “way past” that incident, while Welker sounded like he had put what happened in the rearview.
“Yeah, I really wasn’t even worried about that,” Welker said of potential fallout with Belichick. “At the time, I moved on to getting ready for the Super Bowl so it’s the same for me. It’s in the past, and I’m just really kind of looking forward to this game.”
Sunday will represent Welker’s second trip back to Foxboro since signing with the Broncos, and said he’s a “probably a little more comfortable” about returning this year as opposed to last season.
“I’m just so excited about the opportunity and a big game like this,” he said. “I’ve been at this long enough and understand what’s at stake and understand that I just need to go out there and do my job play after play and execute when I need to execute.
“They do a great job of coaching the weather, how to play in it, what works, what doesn’t work, how you play that team that’s coming in and elements like that,” he added of his old team. “There’s a lot of stuff that goes into it, and obviously their crowd is very into it — [it's] a very hostile environment and everything else. It’s definitely a tough place to play and a place that you have to play your best to win.”