FOXBOROUGH — Wes Welker knew what was coming. He had to.
He knew his quip Sunday night after the Patriots’ win over the Broncos had become much more than he ever had intended.
And even though he probably wanted nothing more than to slide out the backdoor of the locker room Monday and not have to say what he’d have to say, he did it anyway.
On Sunday night, in a postgame chat with Comcast SportsNet, Welker was asked about his 13-catch performance against the Broncos and how it was a far cry from the season opener when he had just three receptions.
“It’s definitely nice to stick it in [Bill Belichick’s] face once in a while, so this is a good one,” said a winking and smiling Welker, who drew laughs from show host Michael Felger and commentators and former Patriots Troy Brown and Ty Law.
Monday, Welker clarified his comments.
“Yeah, I mean . . . it was a joke. I don’t know what else to say about it; it was a joke. But Bill and I, whether y’all believe it or not, have a good relationship and it was a joke and I’ll make sure to keep that in-house going forward,” he said.
In these days of overanalysis, Welker’s words became a story, like Tom Brady’s joke about “lubed up” fans, when an innocent comment by the quarterback got out of hand.
Fans took to message boards and talk radio to debate whether Welker was taking a veiled swipe at Belichick or taking a good-natured poke at him.
The 31-year old acknowledged it’s tough to say certain things these days.
“Yeah, obviously. So . . . you’ve just got to be careful with what you say,” Welker said. “Bill does a good job of challenging us and being a great coach and doing the things necessary that he needs to do. I made a joke about it and, you know, won’t happen again.”
One reporter lightened the mood and asked if Belichick is the greatest coach ever.
Welker broke into a smile.
“No doubt. And that’s not a joke,” he said.
Before Welker’s comments Monday, Belichick was asked if he took exception to what the receiver said, and the coach said he “didn’t really see the comment.”
If they had any discussion about it, neither was saying Monday. As to whether there might be repercussions for Welker, the receiver said, “I don’t think so at all.”
The season got off to an interesting start for Welker. He played a reduced role in the opener in Tennessee, with those three catches for 14 yards, and then was not intended to play a large role in the home opener against Arizona until an injury to tight end Aaron Hernandez increased his workload.
In the three games since, against Baltimore, Buffalo, and Denver, he has 30 catches and gone over 100 yards in each.
Welker has shown the last few weeks he is still the gold standard when it comes to slot receivers. With Welker potentially hitting the open market in March, the rest of the league is likely taking notice too.
“There’s no question about that,” Matthew Slater said Monday when asked if Welker is as good as he’s ever been. “He’s the same Wes Welker I’ve played with every year that I’ve been here. That guy puts so much into his craft and he really works at it.
“He’s an example to all the guys in that receiving room and to all the guys on that offense. He’s a true professional in every sense of the word in how he prepares. He plays the game the right way, he practices the right way and he takes care of his body the right way. He just does so many things the right way and guys around here really appreciate and respect him for that.”
With the Patriots playing their no-huddle offense at warp speed Sunday, Brady looked to Welker early and often, with Welker recording nine of his 13 catches on the day in the first half.
Three came on the first scoring drive: a 15-yard gain on the first play, an 8-yard gain on third and 7, and the 8-yard touchdown.
On the second touchdown drive he had another third-and-long conversion.
It was vintage Welker.
“No question,” it was good to see him produce like that, Slater said. “I’ll bet he’ll tell you the same thing. It was good to have that effort in a win. That’s all we really play for.”Shalise Manza Young can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @shalisemyoung.