INDIANAPOLIS - The man who presented the Lombardi Trophy on Sunday -- Hall of Fame receiver Raymond Berry -- believed that if a receiver could touch a ball, he should be able to catch it.If Wes Welker -- a player who will one day merit HOF consideration -- had caught a critical pass from Tom Brady late in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XLVI instead of having it glance off his hands, Berry might have been handing the Lombardi to the Patriots. Welker's drop of a high but catchable Tom Brady pass with four minutes left would have put the Patriots in field-goal range and allowed them to bleed the clock down on the New York Giants. Instead, the Patriots wound up having to punt and the Giants made history against New England. Again. Welker was disconsolate after the game. "It's one of those plays I've made a thousand times. Just didn't make it," said an emotional Welker. "The ball is right there. I've just got to make the play. It's a play I've made a thousand times in practice and everything else. It comes to the biggest moment of my life and I don't come up with it. It's discouraging."Asked if he felt solely responsible for the loss, Welker said, "Yeah. It hit me right in the hands. I mean, it's a play I never drop, I always make. Most critical situation and I let the team down."Brady explained the play thusly: "Wes was running down the field and it looked like they messed the coverage up a little bit and I threw it to him. He went up to try and make it as he always does and we just couldn't connect. He's a helluva player. I'll keep throwing the ball to him for as long as I possibly can. He's a phenomenal player and teammate and I love that guy."Welker is going to need a lot of support because the scapegoating has begun in earnest. In a minor moment of frustration that will gain huge traction, Brady's wife Gisele Bundchen reportedly said to taunting Giants fans at Lucas Oil Stadium, "My husband can not bleeping throw the ball and catch the ball at the same time. I can't believe they dropped the ball so many times."It wasn't a perfect throw to Welker. But the ball was extremely catchable for a player of Welker's ability. "I think he was a little worried about the safety so he threw it a little wider or whatever, but I mean it's right there. It hits me right in the hands. It's one I'll have to live with," Welker said."That play wasn't the end of the game," said Deion Branch. "There was so much stuff that went down throughout the third and fourth quarters. All of the plays were big, every play is important. Had I made the catch that was behind me (on the play after Welker's drop), that could have been a key third down but we didn't connect on it."Welker will be a free agent within a month if the Patriots don't opt to use the franchise tag on him. They are expected to. But Welker's drop -- like the interception that slipped through Asante Samuel's hands in SB42 that owner Robert Kraft still laments -- makes the negotiations for a deal that Welker's representatives want to be off the charts a little harder.
BOSTON -- When most of Carmelo Anthony’s elite NBA brethren were looking for max-money deals with the flexibility to bounce to another team from one year to the next, the perennial All-Star signed a five-year, $124 million deal in 2014, which was one of the many ways he showed that he’s all-in on being a New York Knick.
And as the Knicks continue to drop one game after another, 'Melo once again finds himself having to answer questions as to whether he wants to be in New York for the long haul.
He acknowledged prior to tonight’s game against the Boston Celtics that he recently met with Phil Jackson, New York’s president of basketball operations. He declined to talk specifics about the meeting, but he was asked whether he felt a need to reiterate his commitment to a Knicks team that finds itself -- for now at least -- on the outside of the playoff picture.
”I think it was just a . . . yeah, I mean, I'm committed,” he said after the team’s shootaround this morning prior to tonight's Celtics-Knicks game. “I don't have to prove that to anybody. I don't think I have to prove that to anybody. I don’t think I have to keep saying that. I don't think I have to keep talking about that. I know for a fact people know that; people see that. And right now my focus is on playing ball and staying with these guys. Because a lot of these guys have never dealt with all of this stuff before. Especially being in a market like New York and dealing with the articles and everybody has a different opinion on different situations. So a lot of these guys have never dealt with that. So for me it's just, it's all about being there. Moreso than ever right now during this time for them.”
Since he arrived via (forced) traded from Denver, 'Melo has seen his share of ups and downs in New York -- probably more downs in terms of the team’s success.
But even with that familiarity, Anthony acknowledged that this season’s problems do have a different feel than previous ones.
“I've had this a couple times over the past couple seasons so I kinda know what this feeling is like,” Anthony said. “I think now it's a little bit different being the fact that the guys we have on this team, the talent level that's on this team, and for us to still kinda be losing these games, close games, non-close games . . . that's a different feeling.”
New York traded for Derrick Rose, a former league MVP, and signed Joakim Noah via free agency.
With those former Bulls, coupled with Anthony and an emerging star in Kristaps Porzingis, the Knicks were expected to provide a nucleus for success that would position them to be a playoff contender. The season is still young, but they've have been one of the bigger disappointments in the NBA this season.
After a 16-13 start, their slide began with a Christmas Day loss to Boston that put them in a tailspin that they’re still trying to play their way out of. They come into tonight’s game having lost 11 of their last 13 games and sit six games below .500 at 18-24.
And as far as Anthony's future with the Knicks, if he leaves it will be his decision.
But he's maintained -- throughout the peaks and valleys in his time with the Knicks -- that he has no desire to play for any other franchise, which is why the no-trade he has is so important.
Simply put, he ain’t leaving New York unless he wants to.
“I think as players you always want to protect yourself,” Anthony said. “I didn't think it would get to this point, but I think as a player if you can get that (no-trade clause), you have a right to protect yourself and take care of yourself when it comes to that. It's very hard to get . . . So, I have it and that's that.”
The Red Sox have invited nine non-roster players to spring training, the team announced Wednesday. The team now has a total of 15 non-roster invitees.
Added Wednesday to the spring training roster were outfielder/infielder Allen Craig, third baseman Rafael Devers, first baseman Sam Travis, catcher Jordan Procyshen, outfielders Brian Bogusevic and Rusney Castillo, and right-handed pitchers Kyle Kendrick, Chandler Shepherd and Ben Taylor.
In addition to 39 players on the 40-man roster, the Sox have the following breakdown of non-roster invitees:
Pitchers: Kyle Kendrick, Edgar Olmos, Chandler Shepherd, Ben Taylor, Marcus Walden
Catchers: Dan Butler, Jake DePew, Jordan Procyshen
Infielders: Rafael Devers, Matt Dominguez, Sam Travis
Outfielders: Brian Bogusevic, Rusney Castillo, Allen Craig, Junior Lake