Welker makes a funny

900599.jpg

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

Patriots making contract statements with OTA absences?

snc_butler_0530161464560931088_3450k_1280x720_695203907893.jpg

Patriots making contract statements with OTA absences?

Malcolm Butler was one of many not spotted during OTAs on Thursday when the media got a looksee at one of the practices.

Butler wasn’t the only one. But he did stand out as a missing player who hadn’t (to my knowledge) had a surgery but did have a contract that needs addressing. Another one? Rob Gronkowski. If we really want to extend it out, throw in Duron Harmon and Logan Ryan.

This is the point where it’s important to point out that these workouts are voluntary – VAW-LUN-TERR-EEEE! Players don’t have to be there. Additionally, I’m not even sure Butler or Gronkowski (or Ryan and Harmon) weren’t at the facility. All I know is they weren’t on the field. And, per usual, nobody’s tipping his hand as to why.

But we do have this, relative to Butler. ESPN’s Mike Reiss wrote Sunday that he “wouldn’t be surprised if it was related to his contract status.” Reiss said that Butler “told teammates and friends he plans to push for an adjustment to his contract before the 2016 season, and staying off the field in voluntary workouts would be a decision that limits injury risk and also could be viewed as a statement to the organization that he's unhappy with the status quo and/or the movement/specifics of contract talks.”

In the same vein, I wouldn’t be surprised if Gronkowski opted out as well for the same reason, especially since he threw out a tweet that signaled dissatisfaction with his pact in March.

But in terms of a statement, not going to OTAs is more of a throat-clearing than a noisy proclamation.

Not to minimize the move if Butler, Gronkowski or anybody else is actually staying away because of business. The Patriots usually enjoy almost perfect OTA attendance. Also, there hasn’t been much contract strife around here for the past five seasons.

Money matters were an annual issue for the Patriots from about 2003 through 2010. Lawyer Milloy, Ty Law, Richard Seymour, Rodney Harrison, Ty Warren, Logan Mankins, Vince Wilfork, Randy Moss, Adam Vinatieri, Mike Vrabel and – quietly – Tom Brady all had their contract dances back then. But the only one that got hairy in the recent past was Wes Welker.

It’s still too soon to know if any of these will get contentious. When will we know? When either a player or his agent spouts off. Or, when someone’s a no-show at mandatory minicamp beginning June 7.

That would amount to a shot across the bow. Of all the players likely to take that shot, Butler seems a reasonable bet. His base pay this season is $600K after a Pro Bowl campaign in 2015 that saw him check the opposition’s best wideout on a weekly basis. He’s a restricted free agent at the end of the year. He deserves longer-term security than he currently has. Gronkowski has a lot less to kick about. He may make less than lesser players, but he also was the league’s highest paid tight end when he was missing scads of games due to injury.

After Butler, Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower would figure to have the strongest cases to want new deals and want them snappy. Ryan and Harmon would be right behind those two. Then Jabaal Sheard.

Sheard, Hightower and Collins were all on the field Thursday. 

Can the Patriots get all these guys reupped? Will they even try? How do they have them prioritized? If the guy who howls loudest gets to the front of the line, the time to make some noise is close.

But we have yet to hear any of these players loud and clear.