With controversy swirling about his place in the Patriots offense, Wes Welker said Monday that he was unsure if he’d get the start leading up to Sunday’s 20-18 loss to the Arizona Cardinals.
”I really wasn’t positive even leading up to the first series,” Welker said told WEEI during a morning appearance. “I just wasn’t sure. I just go out there and, whenever my number is called, I go out and play.”
Welker didn’t start the game but caught five passes for 95 yards and was targeted 11 times on Sunday. He did not get on the field until after Aaron Hernandez’s first-quarter injury. He’s seen his playing time cut drastically in the first two weeks of the season, with Julian Edelman as well as Brandon Lloyd getting more snaps in his place.
“We got a lot of great players,” Welker said. “With our tight ends, and running the football, our offense is a little bit different. A little bit more balanced and things like that. I guess it wasn’t yesterday. But I’m a slot receiver for the most part.”
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady downplayed questions around the lack of snaps for Welker during his weekly paid appearance on WEEI on Monday.
“It was just a personnel grouping where he’s not in the game. We have a lot of different personnel groupings with him in the game. There’s a lot of guys on the roster and we’re trying to utilize every player,” Brady said. “Hopefully everyone can contribute and have opportunity and be fresh and stay healthy. Because we need everybody; it’s a long year.”
Brady was more effusive in his praise of Welker as a person and teammate, just as he was Sunday after the game.
“I love Wes,” he said. “He’s like one of my best friends. What he does on a daily basis to prepare himself really motivates everybody else. He’s a leader. He’s so tough. I’ve been in so many critical, critical situations with him where he’s worked so hard to do the right thing and be in the right place and make the play. He’s a phenomenal player.”
Brady said he did not think the Patriots underestimated the Cardinals, whose 20-18 victory marked the first time New England ever lost a home opener in Gillette Stadium.
“This is a team that had won eight of their last 10 dating back to last year, so now it’s nine of 11. We talked about them all week about being a team that plays hard for 60 minutes, that wins a lot of close games; they were 4-0 in overtime last year,” Brady said. “So you know the principles of what they’re built on and what they’re capable of. I don’t think we took them lightly at all. I thought we prepared hard.
“I think what happened yesterday is we just didn’t play the way that we needed to be able to play for 60 minutes to win a game. Until we do that, they’re going to be very competitive, like they were yesterday.”
Brady also said the Cardinals didn’t do much that was a surprise to the Patriots, and explained the loss as a lack of execution by the Patriots.
With several players pointing to a less-than-crisp week of practice leading up to the game, Brady acknowledged that it wasn’t their best, but also indicated it might be an early-season blip.
“It’s the second week of the year,” he said. “It’s not like we’ve got everything figured out as a team yet in practice or in games, obviously. The way we played yesterday is probably pretty much the way we practiced last week; it was just up and down. We make good plays and then we make bad plays, and good plays and bad plays. The problem with that offensively -- or defensively -- is you can’t string together drives. That was our problem yesterday.”
Brady also offered support to kicker Stephen Gostkowski, who missed a kick that would have won the game in the closing seconds. “He always makes those. He’s been the best kicker, the most accurate kicker in the history of our team.
“Sometimes as a quarterback you just miss a throw, sometimes as a linebacker you just miss a tackle or you drop a ball. That’s just football. It’s never one play. … It’s easy now to point a finger at one player or one play. But the reality is it was a lot of plays by a lot of guys where we need to do a better job so that it doesn’t come down to a kick at the end of the game.”