Receiving passes from one future Hall of Fame quarterback to another isn’t the only thing paying dividends for Wes Welker since he left the New England Patriots for the Denver Broncos this offseason.
This past weekend, the wide receiver expressed his newfound freedom that he has gained since his signing with the Broncos in March. During an interview with Yahoo! Sports, Welker revealed that he could finally be himself and enjoy verbalizing his freedom of speech without worrying about the constraints of the New England Patriots.
“I feel like I can be myself a little more for sure,” said Welker on the topic of his freedom to speak his mind to the media.
While with the Patriots, there was always a thin line between being indistinctive and expressive that head coach Bill Belichick had in tack when his players talked with the media. Belichick was always the first to voice his displeasure over things that his players would say in interviews and press conferences.
During the 2011 postseason, Belichick benched Wes Welker for the first series of a playoff game against the New York Jets. Before the game, Welker took a few shots at Jets head coach Rex Ryan’s well-documented foot fetish.
Since becoming a member of the Broncos, he as approached every interview and press conference with the thought in mind to ‘Just be yourself.’ After all, its what the Broncos insisted after signing him to a two-year, $12 million deal. Denver has made it clear to Welker to not avoid talking about certain subjects. He does not have to fear being scrutinized by the team for comments that he would make under New England and coach Belichick.
“All they told me was ‘Just be yourself,’ he told Yahoo! Sports, during the interview.
In the interview, he also touched base on how New England quarterback Tom Brady was ultimately hurt by his departure. “He was upset about it, and part of me was upset about it too. But things happen for a reason, and I’m excited about the opportunities here and the type of team we have and things that we can do.”
Welker revealed that coming to play with Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning was by design. “There weren’t too many quarterbacks that I would’ve gone out there and played with,” he said.
At age 32, Welker is still considered by many to be the NFL’s premiere slot receiver. Since pairing with Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in 2007, he has racked up a league best 672 receptions (112 catches per season on average) over the last six seasons. Also, during that span, Welker has been a 5x Pro Bowler, 2x First-team All-Pro, 2x Second-team All-Pro, 3x NFL receptions leader, led the AFC in receiving yards in 2011, and became a member of the Patriots All-2000s team. He is coming of a season in which he accumulated over 1,000 yards receiving for the fifth time in the last six seasons.
If you ask Welker, the first player in NFL history to have five 100-catch seasons, there’s no question that he still has plenty of quality seasons of football left in the tank. Plus, when you factor in that Peyton Manning will be now throwing him the ball, it’s hard for him to see where there will be a drop off in his production. Who knows? Manning may not even be the reason as to why Welker will continue to produce in the latter stages of his career. Many of his critics believe that Welker’s stellar numbers the past six seasons are just a reflection of Tom Brady’s abilities as a quarterback and the Patriots offensive system more than anything else. He knows what the critics are saying, and is well aware of what he has to do to silence them.
His critics beliefs, newfound freedom and the Patriots decision to let him test free agency and eventually replace him with WR Danny Amendola will very well serve him all the motivation that he needs this upcoming season and beyond.
“Wherever you can pull any sort of motivation that you need to use to go out there and play the way you need to play, I say use it,” Welker said. “So whatever it is, then yeah, I’ll definitely pull from wherever I can.”