In game of tag, Welker still not 'it'


In game of tag, Welker still not 'it'

The Patriots have until Monday at 4 p.m. to apply the franchise tag to Wes Welker, whichwould keep the wideout offthe free-agent market.Thatthe deadline draws closer and all isquiet could be a good sign. Silence often precedes progress. The Patriots and Welker's agent, David Dunn, havetried since last fallto get Welker a deal that works for both sides, but it's not clear how busy they've been in recent days. Dunn hasn't responded to calls to any of his phones, nor to e-mails, texts or carrier pigeon. The Patriots? Ummm, no. Welker, who turns 31 in May, signed a five-year, 18 million deal with the team in 2007. Since he's been here, he's made 554 catches for 6,105 yards and 31 touchdowns. He had one receiving touchdown before he came to New England. He's been to four Pro Bowls, battled back from a blown ACL in mere months and has been a worthy successor to Troy Brown as the Patriot most who most fully embodies what the franchise has been about since Bill Belichick arrived. In August, Larry Fitzgerald, 28,of the Cardinals signed an eight-year, 128.5 million contract with 50 million guaranteed. The age difference and the role difference between Welker and Fitzgerald is certainly worth noting - Welker's a slot receiver; Fitzgerald is an outside receiver and home-run threat - but the production similarities are worth noting as well. No receiver has been more productive than Welker over the past five years and the Patriots have gotten him at a very low cost relative to that production. It's Dunn's job to make sure Welker gets paid near the top of the receiver food chain and he's well within his rights to expect the Patriots to shell out a little more on top of that for services already rendered. The Patriots love Welker the player and the person. They want him around long-term, but it's unfathomable to think he'll be getting a deal which has a total value that even approaches Fitzgerald's 50 million guaranteed. With the franchise tag set at 9.4 million this year, a four-year, 32 million deal with 18-20 million guaranteed seems fair for Welker. He'd be making 8 million a year and would have a good chance of realizing all the money in the deal. In the end, he will have made 50 million over nine seasons if you roll in the first contract with the Patriots. The first players to get tagged this offseason came Thursday -DeSean Jackson of the Eagles and Raider Tyvon Branch. We're expecting a few more on Friday and the trickle of tagged players to continue until the deadline. We'll see if Welker is in the trickle.

Butler imitates Brown with post-interception dance: 'Nothing personal'


Butler imitates Brown with post-interception dance: 'Nothing personal'

Malcolm Butler didn't mean any disrespect. After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. 


When the Patriots corner picked off a Landry Jones pass in the first quarter -- one that was intended for receiver Antonio Brown -- Butler stood up in the end zone, faced the Heinz Field crowd, stuck one arm in the air But and gyrated like someone had attached jumper cables to his facemask. 

He was doing his best to mimick one of Brown's well-known touchdown dances.

"Me and Brown had conversation before," Butler said, "and it was a joke to him once I showed him how I do it. Much love for that guy. Nothing personal."

For Butler, it was the highlight of what was a productive afternoon. The third-year corner was asked to shadow Brown for much of the day, and he held Brown to five catches on nine targets for 94 yards. He also broke up a pair of passes intended for Brown's teammates.

“Stopping Antonio Brown, that’s impossible," Butler said. "You can’t stop him. You can only slow him down. I just went out there and tried to compete today . . . Great players are going to make plays but you have to match their intensity.”
Even on the longest throw from backup quarterback Landry Jones to Brown, a 51-yarder, it appeared as though Butler played the coverage called correctly. 

Butler lined up across from Brown and trailed him underneath as Brown worked his way from the left side of the field to the right. Butler was looking for some help over the top in that scenario, seemingly, but because Brown ran across the formation, it was hard for the back end of the defense to figure out who would be helping Butler. 

Coach Bill Belichick admitted as much after the game. 

"He was on [Brown] a lot the way we set it up," Belichick said. "Look, they've got great players. They're tough to cover. They hit us on a couple over routes, in cut where they kind of ran away from the coverage that we had. 

"The plays were well designed. Good scheme, good thorws and obviously good routes by Brown. They got us on a couple, but I thought we competed hard. We battled all the way. We battled on third down. We battled in the red area. They made some. We made some, but they're good. They have a lot of good players."

And Brown, in particular, is about as close as it gets to unstoppable in the NFL. Butler found that out in Week 1 of last year when he matched up with Brown in his first game as a starter, giving up 9 catches for 133 yards to the All-Pro wideout. 

Though Sunday might not have been perfect for Butler, it was better than that day about 14 months ago. And at times, it was worth dancing about. 

SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Seahawks, Cardinals miss OT FGs, tie 6-6


SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Seahawks, Cardinals miss OT FGs, tie 6-6

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) Seattle's Stephen Hauschka and Arizona's Chandler Catanzaro missed short field goals that would have won the game in overtime and the Seahawks and Cardinals settled for a 6-6 tie Sunday night.

Hauschka's 27-yard field goal was wide left with seven seconds left after Catanzaro's 24-yarder bounced off the left upright.

The tie was the Cardinals' first since Dec. 7, 1986, a 10-10 draw at Philadelphia when the franchise was based in St. Louis. It was the first for the Seattle since entering the NFL in 1976.

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