Welker excited to begin OTAs today

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Welker excited to begin OTAs today

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.

Belichick taking wait-and-see approach with Stork's status

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Belichick taking wait-and-see approach with Stork's status

FOXBORO -- Bryan Stork has had a whirlwind few days. 

On Wednesday, news broke that Stork had been informed of his release. Then before that move became official, the Patriots and Redskins worked out a trade to send the third-year center to Washington. After that, indications were that Stork was retiring, and the Redskins were unsure as to whether or not he would even report. 

Stork eventually made up his mind, tweeted that he was ready to start a new chapter in his career -- a tweet he has since deleted -- and made his way to the Redskins.

The latest update on Stork's saga is that he failed his physical and that his right have reverted back to the Patriots. When asked about the situation, Bill Belichick chose to wait on illuminating the media of his plans since the picture was still a bit hazy.

"I don’t know if that’s official," Belichick said of Stork's rights. "That sounds like the way it is going to go."

Asked if the Patriots would be releasing Stork, as they originally intended, Belichick replied, "Well, we’ll find out exactly what the story is and whenever that is we’ll make the best decision that we can."

Stay tuned.

Injured offensive linemen Cooper, Mason return to Patriots practice fields

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Injured offensive linemen Cooper, Mason return to Patriots practice fields

FOXBORO -- The Patriots saw two of their injured offensive linemen return to practice on Monday.

Both Jonathan Cooper (out since suffering a foot injury on July 30) and Shaq Mason (reported hand injury) were on the practice field for the team's warm-up period. The pair then headed down to a lower field to do some conditioning with others. 

Special teams ace Matthew Slater, linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill, running back Dion Lewis and tackle Sebastian Vollmer were missing from the session. Lewis and Vollmer remain on the physically unable to perform list and won't be prepared to begin the season Week 1. Grugier-Hill missed Friday's preseason game with the Panthers due to an absence.

New Patriots edge defender Barkevious Mingo was present for his first practice with the Patriots. He was wearing the No. 51 which was most recently worn by former defensive captain Jerod Mayo. 

Danny Amendola (PUP), Tre' Jackson (PUP), Rob Ninkovich, Shea McClellin and Malcolm Mitchell went down to the lower field for conditioning after warmups. Jabaal Sheard, who has dealt with a knee injury he suffered against the Saints in New England's first preseason game, remained with the team for drills after warming up. Also, Alan Branch, who was suspended by the Patriots for a week and reinstated late last week, was present at practice. 

Belichick on Knighton release: He worked hard, lost weight...just didn't work out

Belichick on Knighton release: He worked hard, lost weight...just didn't work out

FOXBORO -- Terrance Knighton wasn't released because he was out of shape. Listening to Bill Belichick over the course of the last few days, it sounds as though Knighton's primary issue was learning the two-gapping technique that the Patriots expect their defensive tackles to execute.

"It just didn't work out," Belichick said when asked about Knighton on Monday. "He came in, worked hard, lost weight, got in good condition, tried to do the things we asked him to do. Just other people ahead of him." 

After signing this offseason, Knighton worked diligently to get into the type of condition the Patriots expected from him. The team also set him up with an in-home chef in order to help him manage his diet.

While Knighton was conditioned well enough to practice and play with the Patriots, it seemed as though he was not able to anchor, take on blocks, shed, and react to ball-carriers in the way the Patriots desired. In the team's second preseason game, against the Bears, Knighton seemed to have some difficulty holding his ground and preventing Chicago's offensive linemen from moving him off of his spot. 

The Patriots opted to play younger defensive linemen, like rookies Vincent Valentine and Woodrow Hamilton, over Knighton against the Panthers on Friday.

"Some new techniques, some new things...different things than what he's used to doing," Belichick said when asked about Knighton after the game. "We played the younger guys tonight. We didn't get as much of a look at him as some other players. He played a little more last week. I think there's good competition at that position. We'll just have to see how it all plays out."

Knighton signed a one-year deal with the Patriots this offseason and was guaranteed $250,000.