Welker makes a funny

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Welker makes a funny

And just like that, Wes Welker is second in the NFL in receptions. He's seventh in total targets (only five out of second place). He's once again established himself as Tom Brady's favorite receiver and helped restore order to the Patriots offense.

Then he did this, and in the process turned that entire first paragraph into a secondary storyline on this Monday afternoon.

I know a lot of people out there are angry that Welker's quote "Yeah, it's kind of nice to stick it in Bill's face once in a while." is a story at all. They think that this post, and everything like it is just "media generated nonsense," "an insult to journalism" and every other complaint that we hear every time something like this makes headlines.

And there's some validity to that.

Obviously, if Welker had said what he said last night, and then no one in the media mentioned it again, there wouldn't be an issue. But come on, that's not reality. You know that. And more importantly, Welker knows that. When he makes a joke at his coach's expense especially after all that's happened between them over the first month of the season he knows what's going to happen. He's well aware that the media will run with it, strangle it and beat it into the ground until another storyline presents itself.

But who cares about the media, the bigger question is: What does Belichick think?

Naturally, he was asked about the comments during today's press conference, and as he was, part of me hoped that the coach would just shrug it off. It's rare that Belichick shows his sense of humor during the season, but he's know to deliver a good jab. And this was the perfect opportunity:

"Hey, coach. Any comment on what Wes said last night on TV?"

"Yeah, yeah. I saw it. He might want to go back and have those hair plugs loosened. I think it's cutting off the circulation to his brain."

Everyone would have laughed. We all could have moved on.

Instead, Belichick claimed that he didn't "really see the comment," and then added the dreaded: "You should ask him what he meant by it."

That's Belispeak for: "I know exactly what you're talking about, but you're crazy if you think I'm sharing my thoughts with you guys. Why don't you go ask Wes, I've already instructed him how to answer."

And here's hoping Welker follows orders, there are no further disciplinary actions and this whole story flies away. There's too much other positive Welker conversation that should be occupying our attention.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Tom Brady will play Friday night vs. Panthers

Tom Brady will play Friday night vs. Panthers

CHARLOTTE - Tom Brady didn't merely fly to Carolina because he likes having his ears pop. 

The Patriots quarterback will indeed play Friday night against the Carolina Panthers. Given Bill Belichick's stated objective of making Jimmy Garoppolo's preparation for the season's first four games a priority, it was uncertain whether Brady would be on the field even though he traveled. But with Brady a late scratch last Thursday against the Bears after gouging his thumb just before kickoff, his chances for game reps before his exile were waning. 

Brady made it very clear this week that he doesn't just want the game reps for tuning up and getting knocked around but because he believes it's his job and responsibility to be out there leading the team, regardless of where he'll be the first four weeks of the year. With him feeling that strongly about playing being important for his preparation and for his standing within the team, it makes sense for Belichick to give him reps. 

It's not known whether Brady or Garoppolo will start or how many series either quarterback will play Friday night. 

Branch reinstated by Patriots after week-long suspension

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Branch reinstated by Patriots after week-long suspension

Alan Branch has been reinstated by the Patriots after the team suspended him prior to last week's preseason game with the Bears, according to Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran. 

When Patriots coach Bill Belichick was asked about Branch's absence last week, he replied, "It's a club matter."

What got Branch suspended by the team is still unknown, but he is expected to be a contributing player on the interior of the Patriots defensive line in 2016. He started in 17 games last season, including both playoff games, often lining up alongside fellow defensive tackle Malcom Brown. 

Through training camp the Patriots have also used Terrance Knighton, Vincent Valentine, Anthony Johnson and Joe Vellano on the interior of their defensive front. Branch, however, has consistently been used with the team's first defensive grouping. It's unclear how a week away from the team might impact his spot on the depth chart. 

Field Yates of ESPN was the first to report the news that Branch had been reinstated.

Brady makes trip with Patriots to Carolina

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Brady makes trip with Patriots to Carolina

Tom Brady traveled with the Patriots to Charlotte, N.C., on Thursday, ahead of the third preseason game Friday night against the Carolina Panthers.

Jeff Howe of The Boston Herald was first to report the news. 

There’s no word on if Brady will play. He missed the opener against the Saints and, after cutting his thumb with scissors, missed the second exhibition game last Thursday against the Bears, both at Gillette Stadium.

Brady, of course, will miss the first four games of the regular season serving his NFL-imposed Deflategate suspension.