NEWARK — There was only one question to ask
“Wes, why does Bill hate you?,’’ I asked Wes Welker.
“I don’t know if he does,’’ answered Welker. “That’s a question for him.’’
OK, Wes. It’s on my “to-do” list. Next time Bill Belichick and I are hanging out in Watertown Square, I’ll be sure to ask Hoodie why he hates Wes Welker.
Theories abound. There’s certainly a possibility that Belichick thinks he “made” Welker, and that Welker was ungrateful. Welker was an undrafted slot receiver from Texas Tech when the Patriots got him from the Dolphins before the 2007 season. He became a star in New England. He ran over the middle, caught everything, and withstood vicious hits. He caught a Super Bowl-record-tying 11 passes in Super Bowl XLII in Glendale, Ariz.
But Belichick didn’t like him. He didn’t like it when Welker made fun of Rex Ryan’s supposed foot fetish before the 2010 playoff loss to the Jets. Belichick benched Welker at the start of that game. Two years ago in Indianapolis, Welker dropped a Tom Brady pass that could have clinched Super Bowl XLVI against the hated Giants.
It got worse after that. The Patriots franchised Welker and Belichick froze Welker out of the game plan at the start of the 2012 season. The coach was intent on proving that the system was bigger than the player. The Patriots could do without Welker. When Welker finally got a chance to again show us what he could do, he said, “It’s nice to stick it in Bill’s face.’’
Then he signed with the Broncos. What an ingrate.
Now he is in the Super Bowl, at the expense of the Patriots. He took out New England’s best defender in the second quarter of the AFC Championship game.
Belichick was livid about a pick play in which Welker crashed into Aqib Talib as a Peyton Manning pass bounced off the hands of Demaryius Thomas. Talib never returned and the Patriots were routed by Manning.
Hoodie ripped Welker the next day. He said it was “a deliberate play to take out Aqib.’’ There was “no attempt to get open.’’ It was “one of the worst plays I’ve seen.’’
Belichick said he would let the league hand out discipline. The league said there was nothing wrong with the hit.
“It’s a rub play that everybody runs,’’ Welker said Tuesday at Media Day. “It’s one of the deals where you try to get a rub on the guy and if you can get him to go over the top of you, the more separation the other receiver will have.
“That’s what I tried to do to try to get Demaryius a little more open. Unfortunately, we just ended up colliding.
“You’re out there trying to help your team win. Both guys are trying to be competitive. It worked out the way it did.’’
Was there anything uncommon about the play?
“I don’t think so,’’ said Welker.
Was he taught to make that same play when he played for the Patriots?
“Yeah, we ran the same play.’’
Was Welker surprised to hear Belichick’s attack?
“I really don’t have any comment on it,’’ he said.
Welker has averaged seven catches per game in his postseason career, but he has never won a Super Bowl. He missed the Broncos’ final three regular-season games after suffering multiple concussions. He said the win over the Patriots in the AFC Championship was his favorite playoff moment thus far.
Is he haunted by the Big Drop in Indy?
“I don’t even think about it,’’ he said. “The past is the past. What happened happened. And I’m looking forward to this one. Going out there and playing my best game and doing what I can to help my team win.
“I don’t worry about the last Super Bowl. I never really think about it. I just think about the next opponent.
“The only thing I have to prove is to myself. I had one game where I set a record for catches in a Super Bowl. I had another game where it didn’t work out as I expected. You just go out and play the best you can and whatever happens happens.’’
The question he hates most is the one about comparing Brady and Manning.
“I’ve answered that ad nauseam since the start of the season,’’ he said. “I’m definitely very blessed. I’ve had the opportunity to play with two great quarterbacks. Both good in their own way.’’
Welker’s ho-hum Media Day session was elevated slightly when he was questioned by former teammate Randy Moss, who now works for Fox. Moss is one of those wildly talented ballplayers who hated and disrespected the media during his playing career, then joined the media as soon as the paychecks stop coming from ball clubs (kind of like Nomar).
Moss got Welker to define his role with the Broncos (“I expect to be effective by just doing what I do, playing hard and playing tough and making plays over the middle and trying to move the sticks and put us in a position to score some points’’), then drew a thoughtful answer regarding Welker’s ability to play after multiple concussions.
“You know how it is, Randy,’’ said Welker. “We played. You want to be out there. Super Bowl, right? You’re going to be there. I don’t care what it takes. You’re going to be out there in this game.’’
Does Welker think he made the right choice, leaving the Patriots for the Broncos?
“I guess so,’’ he said. “Being in this game. But you never know that going into it.’’
Welker is a pretty boring guy. But he’s also driven to win a Super Bowl. For himself. And to stick it in Bill’s face one more time.Dan Shaughnessy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @dan_shaughnessy.