The controversy that has erupted around the New England Patriots is the reduced amount of playing time four-time wide receiver Wes Welker has gotten in the team’s first two games of the season. As far as the Ravens are concerned, however, Welker remains as one of the primary focal points in the week leading up to Sunday night’s contest at M&T Bank Stadium.
“He’s still a factor even though he’s not ‘The Guy,’” cornerback Cary Williams said Wednesday. “He’s still ‘The Guy’ in our book, and we’re still going to prepare like he’s the No. 2 or the No. 1 wide receiver because we know what he’s capable of, especially after last season. He had a great year. I don’t know what’s going on with the organization, but we just have to come out there and play on Sunday regardless of who is No. 1, 2 or 3. That’s not our concern. Our concern is to win the game.”
Welker – who led the NFL last season in catches (122), ranked second in both yards (1,569), and finished with a career best in touchdowns (nine) – caught five passes for 95 yards while playing 63 snaps in the Patriots’ 20-18 loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.
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That may not seem like much of a controversy, but Julian Edelman, who got the start over Welker, played 75 snaps while catching five balls for 50 yards. And Welker got more playing time when tight end Aaron Hernandez injured his right ankle on New England’s third offensive snap of the game.
There is some speculation in the media that covers the Patriots that the organization is retaliating against Welker, who dragged his feet before signing a one-year franchise tender that raised his salary from $2.15 million in 2011 to $9.5 million this year. But that sounds far-fetched when considering that coach Bill Belichick's utmost priority is to win.
When asked during a conference call whether Welker was still valued by the organization, Belichick asked, “Is there any reason he wouldn’t be?”
Belichick insisted that Welker’s playing time has not changed from previous seasons.
“If you look at Wes’ playing time over the years that he’s been with us – it’s been going on for five years – that’s been pretty consistent for him,” Belichick said. “The playing time has been pretty consistent.”
Like the 5-foot-9, 185-pound Welker, the 5-10, 200-pound Edelman is a crafty possession receiver who is also an adept run blocker. But that’s where the comparisons end, according to Williams.
“He’s not Wes,” Williams said of Edelman. “That’s the thing. They both have some similarities as far as size and quickness. They’re more quicker than fast. I think Wes is a better route-runner. I think Edelman is a developmental player. He’s a guy coming up to be that guy. He’s not as elite as Wes Welker, but he can be and he has great potential. He’s a guy you have to take seriously.”