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Patriots notebook

Fallen 'angel' pays a price

NFL fines Welker for end zone antic

Celebrating his touchdown against Arizona will cost receiver Wes Welker $10,000. Celebrating his touchdown against Arizona will cost receiver Wes Welker $10,000. (John Bohn/Globe Staff)
By Christopher L. Gasper and Michael Vega
Globe Staff / December 25, 2008
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FOXBOROUGH - Impromptu touchdown celebrations by the Patriots are getting costly. Wide receiver Wes Welker was the latest to be fined for his antics.

The NFL docked Welker $10,000 for his "snow angel" celebration after he caught a second-quarter touchdown pass in last Sunday's 47-7 victory over the Cardinals. That is the same amount tight end Benjamin Watson was fined for his gesture after he caught a touchdown pass against the Seahawks Dec. 7. Watson put the ball under his jersey and patted it as if he were pregnant, a nod to his wife, who is expecting the couple's first child in February.

Both players drew 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.

Watson was fined for using the ball as a prop. The NFL said Welker's fine was for going to the ground. Under NFL rules, players may only go to the ground after a touchdown to pray.

Welker wouldn't say whether he planned to appeal.

"I don't know," he said. "You can be sure that I won't do it again. I guess they got their point across with what they did."

Welker had said after Sunday's game that he remembered former Cowboys receiver Kevin Williams doing the snow angel celebration a few years ago, and Patriots fans remember Lonie Paxton doing it in the "Snow Bowl" win over the Raiders in the 2001 playoffs.

"I think that the rules have kind of changed since then," said Welker. "So, you know, you got to be aware of the new rule changes and understand it and abide by them or else these types of things will happen."

Spoiler alert
After starting 4-0 and looking like a surprise candidate to win the AFC East, the Bills (7-8) have been playing out the string and now are looking to spoil the Patriots' hopes of a division title or wild-card berth.

"Any game that you can win, any game in our league, is a terrific win," said Bills coach Dick Jauron, whose team snapped a three-game skid with a 30-23 victory at Denver last Sunday. "And then in our division - the division is very tough, as we all know - is a great win for us, too.

"The rest of it, how it impacts anybody else, we're not real concerned. We're mostly concerned about us and we obviously know how good the Patriots are and how well they're playing right now - they're really on a roll - and how well we'll have to play just to stay in the game with them."

Buffalo's win at Denver was only its third in 10 games and prevented the Broncos from clinching the AFC West.

"It was a tremendous win for us because things had not been going very well at all," said Jauron, whose team rallied from a 13-0 deficit in the first quarter to pull ahead on Fred Jackson's 8-yard TD run with two minutes remaining. "To go out there and beat a pretty good team that could have sealed a playoff spot, they were very into it and it certainly didn't start well for us, so give our guys a lot of credit."

It made for a nice flight home - if a day late. The Bills were forced to spend Sunday night in Denver because of inclement weather back home and did not arrive in Buffalo until 3 p.m. Monday.

The no-name defense
Bill Belichick knows the Patriots need to beat the Bills and then require some help from the Jets in order to clinch the division title, but he was not going to come out and say he was rooting for the Jets. "I'm rooting for the Patriots," he said. "Whoever helps the Patriots, I'm rooting for." . . . Reserve offensive lineman Russ Hochstein, who made his debut at fullback in last Sunday's romp over the Cardinals, stood at his locker yesterday and found himself swarmed by media. "I can't confirm or deny I'll be at any other position other than the line," he said. "It's completely up to what the coaches want. All I can do is prepare hard this week and help my team win a big game." Asked if he spent any time this week getting acquainted with the JUGS machine, in preparation for the ball to be thrown his way, Hochstein laughed. "I can't say that I have," he said. "Now that I've got all this attention, the lineman love this. They're going to be all over me about this." Hochstein had no sooner spoken when center Dan Koppen called out from behind the throng, "Hey, Hochstein, what were you thinking when you went offsides?" . . . Quarterback Matt Cassel marveled at the eight-year, $180 million contract Mark Teixeira signed with the Yankees. "Maybe I'm in the wrong sport," he said.

Limited action
Linebacker Gary Guyton (ankle), cornerback Ellis Hobbs (shoulder), tackle Mark LeVoir (ankle), tackle Matt Light (shoulder), linebacker Vince Redd (ankle), defensive back Lewis Sanders (shoulder), safety James Sanders (abdomen), and defensive tackle Ty Warren (groin) had limited participation in yesterday's practice, while nose tackle Vince Wilfork (shoulder) returned to full participation. Linebacker Tedy Bruschi (knee), defensive lineman Richard Seymour (back), safety Ray Ventrone (jaw), and offensive lineman Billy Yates (hand) did not participate. The Bills reported that six players - wide receivers James Hardy (knee) and Roscoe Parrish (knee), linebacker Teddy Lehman (groin) and Kawika Mitchell (knee), running back Marshawn Lynch (shoulder), and tackle Jason Peters (knee) - did not participate in yesterday's practice. Cornerback Jabari Greer (knee) returned to limited participation.

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