PEABODY -- He may not yet have the long-term deal he's been looking for, but it's clear Wes Welker is ready to move on from discussing publicly his contract negotiations.
When given the opportunity to talk football over the weekend at his Old Spice youth clinic, he beamed. It was a welcome respite from discussing dollars and cents and job-security. He smiled as he spoke about his teammates and about how excited he was to be on the field for the start of organized team activities, which began today.
Welker was especially eager to see some of his former Patriots teammates -- Jabar Gaffney and Donte' Stallworth -- back in New England.
"It's really cool," Welker said of their reunion. "I have a great relationship with all those guys. We've added some other guys into the mix as well. I'm excited to work with everybody and get everybody on the same page. We all work together out there. Everybody getting open, everybody being an option all the time. It really just helps out the team to become that much better and have that competitive atmosphere out there."
For Patriots receivers, the competition will start early. There are 12 receivers currently on the team's roster, including Welker, Gaffney, Stallworth, Brandon Lloyd, Deion Branch, Chad Ochocinco, Anthony Gonzalez and Julian Edelman. Though none have to worry about being cut during OTAs, they all know there will be only so many spots for pass-catchers on the active roster come Week 1 of the regular season.
"We got some great receivers coming in," Welker said. "It's going to be a lot of fun. A competitive atmosphere. A lot of guys that have been here and can really help us win ball games. I'm really looking forward to working with everybody."
That includes Welker's good friend Tom Brady. The two haven't yet worked out together during the offseason so they'll have a chance to rediscover their timing in OTAs.
"That's why these OTAs are important as well," Welker said. "Get on the same page with Brady and get that work in."
For Welker, the arrival of OTAs also means that he can finally get back to what he loves to do. It's part of the reason he signed his franchise tender early, thereby relinquishing any leverage he had in long-term contract negotiations; he couldn't picture himself not participating.
"I'm looking forward to moving forward and getting ready for the 2012 season," he said.
With that he left the middle of the media scrum, questions about his contract negotiations behind him -- at least temporarily. He and the team have until July 15 to negotiate a long-term deal.