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Patriots notebook

Some analysis by Harrison

His viewpoint on Welker is unique

Former Patriot Rodney Harrison (above) knows what Wes Welker is going through with his serious knee injury. Former Patriot Rodney Harrison (above) knows what Wes Welker is going through with his serious knee injury. (Jim Davis/File/The Boston Globe)
By Adam Kilgore
Globe Staff / January 6, 2010

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FOXBOROUGH - Former Patriots safety Rodney Harrison, for two reasons, has a unique perspective on Wes Welker and the crushing injury he suffered Sunday. In 2005, Harrison tore ligaments in his knee. In 2006, Harrison injured his knee in a virtually meaningless game in Week 17 and had to sit out the playoffs, the same sickening situation Welker now faces.

“I gave my best to him,’’ said Harrison, now an NBC analyst. “This is a devastating injury to a guy like him. The last thing you want to do as a player is hurt yourself at the end of a season. You never want to hurt yourself. If you hurt yourself, at least let it be in the first half of the season.’’

Harrison knew that Welker’s injury - torn medical collateral and anterior cruciate ligaments, according to a league source - would put him out for the year, no matter when he was hurt. His point was, at least an early-season ACL/MCL tear allows a player more time to heal before the next season.

In ’05, Harrison tore his ACL, MCL, and PCL and did not return for 10 months. He believes Welker’s elite physical condition will help him recover. But he also guessed that Welker will face an arduous and lengthy rehab. Because of the demands of the position of receiver, Harrison believes, Welker may miss not only these playoffs, but also significant time next season.

“It’s going to take 11 months to actually have surgery, rehab, and actually get on a practice field,’’ Harrison said. “It really took me into the seventh week [of 2006] to start feeling good. I had probably a little more devastating injury. Coming back with the type of injury that he has, depending on his ability to cut, move, and shift, it’s going to be a tough injury to come back from.

“The thing about Welker is he is in phenomenal shape. He’s a hard-working guy. That’s one of the things that will help you recover from an injury like that. Once you tear up your knee, you’re never going to be the same, no matter what. Especially if you’re a slot receiver like Welker. Realistically, I don’t know if he’s going to be back by November. That’s just my information.’’

Harrison called the injury “somewhat devastating to the Patriots,’’ but from his time with the team he believes it can be overcome. He remembered coach Bill Belichick forcing backups to prepare as if they were starters. He also likes Welker’s primary replacement, rookie Julian Edelman.

“Just talking to people down there, they have a lot of confidence in Julian Edelman,’’ Harrison said. “He was very inconsistent during the early part of the season, but he looked great last week.

“This, crazy as it may sound, serves as motivation. [Belichick] is going to use this to the best of his ability to motivate these guys. Basically, what he’s going to tell those guys is, ‘Offensively, they feel like we can’t put up points, can’t score. They feel like Wes Welker was the best player outside of Tom Brady on this team. They’re not giving us a chance.’ So the players in that locker room will use that as motivation.

“This is a team that’s been flying under the radar. I just feel that team will respond. They’ve always responded with Belichick. They believe that they’re going to beat the Baltimore Ravens.’’

Moving on
There still was no official word from the Patriots about Welker’s injury, and Belichick didn’t want to spend much time talking about it yesterday. When pressed for updates, Belichick said the topic has been covered and “we’re onto Baltimore.’’

When asked for any comment on Welker, Belichick said, “I’ve already said it. He’s a great player and I know he’ll work hard to get back as soon as he can.’’

When asked if Welker will be around the team during the playoffs to help Edelman, Belichick said, “Wes will do whatever’s best for him at this point. I’m not sure exactly what that is.’’

Cornerback Shawn Springs said he had not talked to Welker but hoped to express his support at some point.

“That’s all you can do at this point is rally around him, and guys who are on the offensive side, wide receivers have to step up,’’ Springs said. “No one can take the place of Wes, but guys can step up and contribute.’’

Edelman had 10 catches for 103 yards against Houston after Welker went out with his injury in the first quarter. Edelman, Isaiah Stanback, and Sam Aiken could find themselves more in the mix for Brady against the Ravens.

“It has an impact on the team,’’ said kick returner Matthew Slater, who also has played receiver. “We just have to focus even more now. Guys are going to be asked to do different things. It’s all of us. Everybody is going to be asked to do more.’’

Defensive end Ty Warren said the team can’t buckle.

“It’s something that’s part of the game,’’ Warren said. “It’s the nature of the game. I know athletes tend to say that, but it is. It happened with Brady. This happened now.

“The season can’t go south because of it. I’m sure Wes or any guy that went down like Wes went down would want us to carry on as if we’re trying to get something accomplished in the playoffs, and that’s what we’re going to do.’’

Pees returns
Defensive coordinator Dean Pees returned to the team after being hospitalized in Houston. The 60-year-old experienced shortness of breath during the game and was driven to an area hospital. He spent the night in Houston and returned yesterday following a series of tests. “I asked him how he was doing and he’s doing fine,’’ Warren said. Pees underwent the tests for precautionary reasons, and his condition was never considered to be serious . . . The Patriots are releasing more than 100 tickets for Sunday’s game that can be purchased through Ticketmaster this morning at 10. Orders can be processed online at www.ticketmaster.com or by phone (1-800-745-3000).

Adam Kilgore can be reached at akilgore@globe.com.

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