Welker not motivated by Phillips on big night


Welker not motivated by Phillips on big night

FOXBORO -- Wes Welker has been here before. People have criticized his height or his athleticism and the 5-foot-9 receiver from Oklahoma City has made each loose-lipped detractor look amazingly misinformed.

Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips accidentally added himself to the list this week. In the course of answering a question about Welker on Thursday, Phillips let one slip.

"Ah, Welkers not Cincinnati receiver A.J. Green," Phillips told ESPN.com, in response to a question asking if Texans corner Johnathan Joseph, who covered Green in their Wild Card game, might cover Welker. "Hes a good player, but hes not that big or a real athletic guy. Hes a quick guy that gets open on option routes. Texans defensive back Brandon Harris actually played him pretty good."

Welker said he paid no attention to Phillips' comments, but he exploded for a big game in New England's 41-28 Divisional Round win over Houston. He finished with eight catches for 131 yards -- his third-highest yardage total of the season.

"I'm really not too worried about that," Welker said about Phillips' comments from earlier in the week. "It's just all noise. I try to do my job the best of my ability."

In the second quarter, Welker proved his abilities include more than catching short routes over the middle. He streaked up the sideline and hauled in a 47-yard pass from quarterback Tom Brady to set up Shane Vereen's 8-yard touchdown reception that made the score 17-3.

Brady and the Patriots must have liked Welker's matchups throughout the night -- as they so often do -- as he was targeted a team-high 13 times. He had a couple of drops, including one on a pass over the middle after holding on to a catch moments earlier on a similar play when he took a vicious hit. But Brady's confidence in his favorite target never wavered.

With tight end Rob Gronkowski out for the remainder of the postseason, Welker's significant workload will likely remain that way. He'll continue to take big shots from oftentimes bigger defenders, and he'll continue to be Brady's most trusted weapon in the passing game.

"Wes is a tremendous receiver, a great competitor," Patritos coach Bill Belichick said. "Again, we feel like at times there was a good matchup with him in the slot. He did a good job in there. Again, Tom made some throws. Wes is quick to cover. Tom had some good weapons to work with and he was able to move it around and get it to a bunch of them. I thought we had good balance offensively. Overall it was pretty good."

After Phillips made his comments on Welker and found that they were being perceived by many as bulletin board material for the Patriots, he posted on his Twitter account: "Wes Welker is a great athlete and one of the best receivers of all time. twistthataround"

It was something Phillips probably didn't have to do. Welker had been there before, through high school and then college and then earlier in his NFL career as he tried to work up the ranks. He was used to people commenting on his stature and his athleticism.

But at this point he's one of the best receivers of his era. His numbers stack up against any other receiver's. At this point he doesn't need criticism to get him motivated. He's great without it. At this point, like he said, it's just noise.

Right now, he's more concerned about what's next.

"It's one step forward in the right direction," Welker said of the win. "It's one thing done that we've taken care of. Now we're moving on to the AFC championship, and we'll get ready for that."

Beyond the numbers: The dual threat of Avery Bradley


Beyond the numbers: The dual threat of Avery Bradley

BOSTON – Another year, another season in which Avery Bradley plans to showcase a new and improved skill that will benefit the Boston Celtics.
But with each improved skill, Bradley moves just that much closer to being an all-around, two-way talent that creates problems for teams at both ends of the floor.
We all know about Bradley’s defense, which was good enough to land him a spot on the NBA’s All-Defensive first team last season. He also gets props for steadily improving his game offensively in some area every summer, but defenses might have their hands full more than ever with Bradley.
According to NBA stats guru Dick Lipe, the 6-foot-2 Bradley was the only guard in the NBA last season to shoot better than 70 percent in the restricted area among players who took a minimum of 200 field goal attempts.
He is among a list that includes Los Angeles Clippers big men DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin; Miami’s Hassan Whiteside; current teammate and former Atlanta Hawk Al Horford; San Antonio’s LaMarcus Aldridge; Golden State’s Kevin Durant and Atlanta big man Dwight Howard.
But if you’re thinking about keeping him away from that part of the floor, Bradley also made the 3-point shot a bigger part of his offensive game last season; as in, 40 percent of his shots came from beyond the 3-point line.

Having that kind of diversity makes him a difficult player to get a clear read on how to defend. And because of that, it may open things up even more so for his teammates.
Bradley can shoot from the perimeter; he can score close to the rim. His ball-handling skills have improved in the offseason to where it no longer looks as though it’s a major weakness.
And he defends at a level few players in the league can match.
Collectively it makes Bradley one of the many challenges awaiting teams whenever they face the Celtics, a player who is poised to showcase his diverse set of skills beginning tonight against the Brooklyn Nets. 

Wednesday's Patriots-Bills practice participation/injury report: Same names for Pats


Wednesday's Patriots-Bills practice participation/injury report: Same names for Pats

FOXBORO -- When Dion Lewis wasn't spotted at Wednesday's practice, we had to make it clear when we mentioned his absence: He had only, as far as we knew, missed the start of practice. Though unlikely, there's always the chance a player emerges from the locker room once practice has started and goes through the remaining periods of the workout. 

Now that we have the injury report for Wednesday, we know that wasn't the case for Lewis. He did not show up on the report as a limited participant, meaning he didn't participate at all. 

There were no surprises on Wednesday's injury report, with nine players listed as limited, including tight end Martellus Bennett (ankle), linebacker Jamie Collins (hip) and receiver Julian Edelman (foot).

For the Bills, running back LeSean McCoy (hamstring) did not participate. Bills coach Rex Ryan explained on Wednesday that McCoy aggravated his hamstring injury against the Dolphins on Sunday, but he did not rule him out for the Patriots game this coming weekend.

Wednesday's practice participation/injury report for Sunday's Patriots-Bills game:


TE Martellus Bennett (ankle)
RB Brandon Bolden (knee)
LB Jamie Collins (hip)
WR Julian Edelman (foot)
DL Woodrow Hamilton (shoulder)
LB Shea McClellin (concussion)
WR Malcolm Mitchell (hamstring)
LB Elandon Roberts (ankle)
DL Vincent Valentine (back)


LB Lorenzo Alexander (non-injury related)
LB Zach Brown (illness)
DT Corbin Bryan (shoulder)
TE Charles Clay (knee)
TE Cordy Glenn (ankle)
WR Marquise Goodwin (concussion)
RB LeSean McCoy (hamstring)
LB Lerentee McCray (knee)
DT Adolphus Washington (illness)
S Aaron Williams (neck)

DT Marcell Dareus (hamstring)
RB Mike Gillislee (foot)
T Seantreal Henderson (back)
LB Jerry Hughes (hand)
G John Miller (shoulder)
WR Robert Woods (foot)