Welker refuses to take personally the lack of a contract extension, and is focused on the job
FOXBOROUGH — He did an ad for Depends and isn’t shying away from his recent hair-transplant procedure, so clearly Wes Welker is willing to put just about anything into a public forum.
And when it comes to his status with the Patriots, Welker didn’t avoid questions Thursday after the team’s first training camp session.
The franchised wide receiver will earn $9.515 million this season, and has no contract beyond after he and the team weren’t able to complete a long-term deal before the NFL’s July 16 deadline.
But for the record-setting receiver who still sees himself as the underdog, not knowing what his playing future holds beyond February isn’t going to change a thing.
“I approach it like any other year, going out there and trying to help my team win games. That’s the bottom line for me, and that’s where my focus is. Whatever my role is just going out there and really helping the team win,” Welker said.
When he signed his franchise tender in May, so that he could take part in organized team activities and minicamp — and, it could be theorized, to show that he was still an asset despite the suddenly receiver-heavy roster — Welker tweeted that it was a “leap of faith.”
Many believed committing to the tag so early in the process weakened Welker’s leverage.
Yet he is not disappointed that his leap of faith was not rewarded.
“Not at all. Everyone tried. I tried, they tried, and it just didn’t work out,’’ said Welker. “It’s in the past, and we’ve moved on to this season, which we expect to be a good one. We’re working towards it, and working hard to have a great season this year.”
He also isn’t taking it personally.
“I understand the business side of it,’’ said Welker. “I’m not worried about it, really. I’m excited about this year. I’m excited about what we can do as a team.’’
Though he’s playing on a one-year deal and in a position where he has to show he still has it at 31, Welker also played last season essentially on a one-year deal, the final of the five-year pact he signed when he came to New England in 2007.
Lest we forget, this is also a player who came into the NFL undrafted despite a standout career at Texas Tech, and was only offered a scholarship to play for the Red Raiders after another player backed out of his commitment.
So any idea that he has to prove it is nothing new to Welker.
“You have to prove it every year,” he said. “There is no year where you don’t need to prove it, so it’s like any other year. The contract and everything else is out of my mind, and it’s really just going out there and focusing on playing good ball.”
And even if he’s franchised again for 2013, Welker said he won’t be bothered by it, calling it “a great situation. I’m not too worried about that.”
With good reason. If he is franchised again next year, his salary will be equal to 120 percent of this year’s salary. That’s a tidy sum of $11.418 million.
Welker had 122 catches for a career-high 1,569 yards last year, a big part of New England’s high-powered offense. But with the signings of Brandon Lloyd and Jabar Gaffney to add to Welker, Rob Gronkowski, and Aaron Hernandez, the Patriots could be even better.
“We have a lot of good players on our team, and everyone really working together and understanding that we all work off each other and the more guys we have out there doing the right thing the better off we’re going to be as an offense,” Welker said. “It’s exciting to see, and we still have a lot of work ahead of us and we look forward to it.”
The Super Bowl was nearly six months ago, and the Patriots had offseason workouts and camps before getting a few weeks off before training camp.
It seemed like a short break for Welker.
“It’s good to be back. It seems like just yesterday we were still playing, and we’re already back. It’s kind of crazy,” he said. “You’re kind of thinking, ‘I can’t believe we’re already back.’ You get out here and you go against the defense and it’s just exciting. You get out here with your teammates and getting better and getting ready for the new season.
“[There are] a lot of high expectations, and we’re looking forward to trying to get better and trying to get better as a team and trying to put a good product out there on the field.”