Welker: 'Bill and I have a good relationship'

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Welker: 'Bill and I have a good relationship'

FOXBORO -- As soon as Patriots receiver Wes Welker said it's nice to stick a great on-field performance "in Bill Belichick's face," he probably knew it was a mistake. No matter how innocent his intentions may or may not have been.

Welker let the quip fly Sunday night after catching 13 passes for 104 yards and a touchdown against Denver.

By early Monday evening, his regret was forced on display.

"It was a joke," he told reporters. "I don't know what else to say about it. It was a joke.

"Bill and I, whether y'all believe it or not, have a good relationship. It was a joke and I'll make sure to keep that in house going forward."

He punctuated that last sentence with an eye roll.

Some will argue Welker should have known better. He got benched in 2010's divisional playoff against the Jets after making 11 references to Rex Ryan's alleged foot fetish in a press conference.

And he might remember teammate Tom Brady saying, "I'm not joking any more this year" in 2011 after his previous week's instruction for Patriots fans to get "lubed up" and rowdy for a home game turned into a PR nightmare.

"You've just got to be careful with what you say," Welker said, a look of annoyance alighting on his features. "Bill does a great job of challenging us and being a great coach and doing things necessary that he needs to do. I made a joke about it and it won't happen again."

As for any fallout -- another benching, maybe -- Welker said he's not expecting repercussions from the coach.

"I don't think so at all. We're just concentrating on Seattle this week and getting ready for the game."

Reese Witherspoon tries to recruit Malcolm Mitchell for her book club

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Reese Witherspoon tries to recruit Malcolm Mitchell for her book club

Malcolm Mitchell's on-the-field ability got him drafted in the fourth round by the Patriots last weekend, but his off-the-field story has garnered just as much -- if not more -- attention.

Mitchell's story, at this point, has been well-told. The 6-foot, 198-pound receiver arrived at the University of Georgia able to read at only a middle-school level. But while on campus his love of reading steadily grew, and he has since become a strong advocate for children's literacy. He's written his own children's book, The Magician's Hat, and he even joined a book club in the Athens, Georgia area made up of women about twice his age and older. 

Though his fellow book club members plan to make a visit to Gillette Stadium at some point this season to watch Mitchell play, he may be in the market for a new group now that he'll be moving to New England. 

Actress Reese Witherspoon was so inspired by Mitchell's story that she tried to recruit him to her own book club. Using Twitter to make the connection, Witherspoon happily engaged Mitchell in a back-and-forth where the two shared some of their favorite reading list suggestions.

Mitchell will soon be in Foxboro for Patriots rookie minicamp so he'll likely have to devote an inordinate amount of time to digesting his new playbook, but it seems like he now has a few other items on his to-do list thanks to his new pal.

Putting Gronkowski deal in context after Washington gives Reed extension

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Putting Gronkowski deal in context after Washington gives Reed extension

Rob Gronkowski's contract with the Patriots continues to look like a relative bargain as tight ends around the league haul in big money on a per-year basis. 

On Thursday, Washington announced that it had come to terms on a long-term contract extension with tight end Jordan Reed. The deal is reportedly worth $50 million over five years, including $22 million guaranteed. 

That's not a bad pay day for a player who has missed 14 games due to injury over the course of his first three seasons. When healthy, he's proven to be one of the most dynamic players at his position -- playing more as an over-sized wide receiver at 6-foot-3, 236 pounds than a true dual-threat tight end -- and now he's being paid as such. 

Reed's new contract allows us an opportunity to take another look at Gronkowski's deal, which has come into focus ever since he sent out a tweet in March that indicated he felt as though he was taking a pay cut when the Patriots picked up an option that would keep him in New England through 2019.

In the tweet, Gronkowski said he doesn't play for the money -- and according to him he hasn't spent a dime of what the Patriots have paid him since entering the league -- but it seemed to be relatively clear that the structure of his contract was on his mind when he took to social media.

Gronkowski signed a six-year, $54 million extension in 2012. By then he had proven how important he was to the Patriots offense, but he had a lengthy injury history going back to his college playing days. At the time, a deal that both paid him at the top of the market and gave him a measure of security was welcomed with open arms.

Now here we are in 2016, and the market has shifted. The salary cap has increased and many teams have opted to pay their tight ends bigger chunks of the pie, sliding Gronkowski down the list of highest-paid players at that position based on average annual value. 

Reed and Seattle's Jimmy Graham ($10 million) now top the list. Kansas City's Travis Kelce ($9.4 million) and Jacksonville's Julius Thomas ($9.2 million) also fall in ahead of Gronkowski.

Considering where those players stack up with Gronkowski in terms of production, the Patriots' All-Pro seems to have every right to furrow his brow when he looks at his contract by comparison. 

It could be a while though before Gronkowski sees any alterations to his income, however. First and foremost, he still had four years remaining on his contract as it's currently constructed. The Patriots front office gambled and won with the deal they gave him four years ago, and barring a holdout, they'd have little incentive to re-work it. 

There's also the matter of where Gronkowski's deal falls in terms of the team's list of priorities. He's at least still paid near the top of the market at his position.

There are several of his teammates -- corners Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan, linebackers Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower, defensive end Jabaal Sheard and receiver Julian Edelman -- who are either a) about to become free agents after the 2016 or b) could make the argument that they're even more significantly underpaid than Gronkowski. Some fall under both categories. 

As great as Gronkowski has been, and as important as he is to his team's success, he may have to take his place in line when it comes to receiving a deal that more favorably reflects his value. 

Tom Brady, Vanilla Ice look like BFFs at Under Armour event

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Tom Brady, Vanilla Ice look like BFFs at Under Armour event

Watch out Julian Edelman, Wes Welker and Alex Guerrero. Tom Brady just might have a new best friend. 

At an Under Armour event that took place on Wednesday, rapper Vanilla Ice snapped a selfie with the Patriots quarterback, who was grinning from ear to ear. 

In South Baltimore, "Armour Day" was held in order to celebrate Under Armour's 20th year in business. Brady was one of many athletes in attendance, including Jordan Spieth, Lindsey Vonn, Deion Sanders, Ray Lewis, Cal Ripken, Boomer Esiason and Roger Clemens. 

Brady is one of the faces of Under Armour, along with Spieth and Warriors guard Steph Curry. When he signed in 2010, he received equity in the company as part of the deal.