Most of the time when a player of Wes Welker’s caliber returns home to face his former team, in a place where the player was very successful for an extended period of time, it’s a welcomed reunion. This one might be a little different.
Fans are expected to give him a mixed response, but most of the tension should be between Welker and the Patriots organization, particularly with head coach Bill Belichick.
Things may have started to get tense between the two back in 2011 when, prior to facing the Jets in the playoffs, Welker made a number of subtle references to Rex Ryan and a “foot-fetish” video that had surfaced online. Welker was benched for the first series of the playoff game by Belichick.
Then, in the beginning of the 2012 season, he didn’t play as big of a role as he had in years prior until an injury to tight end Aaron Hernandez occurred in early October. In the game following the injury, Welker recorded 13 catches for 104 yards against the Titans and then delivered an interesting comment following the game.
"Yeah it's kind of nice to stick it in Bill's face once in a while,” Welker said, smiling on Comcast New England’s postgame show. "So this is definitely a good one."
Following the 2012 season, Welker was a free agent and chose to sign with Denver for two years and $12 million instead of returning to the Patriots for two years and $10 million with incentives. Upon arriving in Denver he sounded off on his former coach and his style of coaching.
“It was just kind of hard,” Welker told Sports Illustrated. “One of those deals where you have to endure him, put up with him . . . But he does it to everybody, it’s the way he is.”
Welker certainly had this game circled on his calendar before the year began, as he surely will have some extra motivation going against his former team and coach. He comes into the game with nine touchdown catches this season, matching his career-high set with the Patriots in 2011.
As for Sunday, even though he suffered a concussion in last Sunday’s win over the Chiefs, expect him to be on the field -- just ask Brady, one of his closest friends.
“He loves playing football, and there’s a chance for him to play, and especially coming back here, he’s definitely going to be out there, I’ve got no question about that,” Brady said on WEEI Wednesday. “It would take an awful lot for him to miss this game.”