Former Patriots receiver Wes Welker, now a member of the Broncos, admitted in a meeting with the media in Denver on Sunday that he feels freer to speak his mind since parting ways with Bill Belichick.
“I feel like I can be myself a little more for sure,” Welker said, via Yahoo! Sports, adding that he’d received no pre-interview warnings from the Broncos. “Here? No. … All they told me was, ‘Just be yourself.’ ”
Welker, who signed a two-year, $12 million deal with Denver in the offseason, made it clear that he plans to use his acrimonious departure from New England as motivation this year.
“Wherever you can pull any sort of motivation that you need to use to go out there and play the way you need to play, I say use it,” Welker said when asked about proving that his success is not just due to the Patriots’ system. “So whatever it is, then yeah, I’ll definitely pull from wherever I can.”
Welker was very close with Tom Brady, and he said the quarterback — who publicly has said little about the issue — was not pleased that the team let Welker go after Brady renegotiated his deal to free up more money.
“You know, after it happened, obviously we talked and everything like that,” Welker said. “He was upset about it, and part of me was a little upset about it, too. But things happen for a reason, and I’m excited about the opportunities here and the type of team we have and things that we can do.”
Added Welker: “It is [a bummer], but I think he understands it, and I understand it. … It’s been going on for years and years. I’m not the first [Patriots] player that this happened to, and I definitely won’t be the last.”
That said, Welker indicated he harbors no animosity toward Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who claimed that Welker took a lesser deal in Denver.
“Different people are going to say different things at different times,” Welker said. “And I’m sure there’s a lot of things I’ve said in the media that I wish I could have back. But you live and you learn, that’s just the way it is. I have all the respect and admiration for Mr. Kraft and everything he’s done and how he treated me while I was there, so it doesn’t really bother me at all.”
One of Welker’s most memorable press conferences in New England came in January 2011 when he made numerous references to feet in the wake of Jets coach Rex Ryan‘s foot-fetish video. Welker was held out of the first offensive series for the ensuing playoff game against the Jets, which New England lost.
“You know what? I think I’ve lived and learned,” Welker sad. “And I hopefully would never put a coach in a position like that [again].”
Looking at this season, Welker said he expects big things — and maybe some surprises — from the Peyton Manning-led Broncos offense. But he’s not worried about replicating his incredible production with the Patriots (a league-high 672 receptions in six years).
“No doubt,” he said about the possibility that his stats will go down. “I don’t really care if they do or not. It’s not my goal. It’s not what I’m about or anything else. If I have to catch 112 balls, I don’t know if we’re going to be the team we want to be. I’ll catch as many as it takes to win, and whatever that is, that’s what it is. I just want to win. That’s the only reason I’m here.”