Welker not surprised by Patriots hardball


Welker not surprised by Patriots hardball

PEABODY -- Wes Welker knew all along that the Patriots would play hardball before handing him a long-term contract.

He knows New England's history for making its best players fight for top-dollar deals. He had seen it play out before.

The Patriots did it with Deion Branch, who held out until he was traded to Seattle and rewarded with a big-money contract there.

They did it with Asante Samuel. He played under the franchise tag for a season and then went to Philadelphia to get his pay day.

Vince Wilfork skipped organized team activities in 2009 before showing up to camp and eventually getting taken care of.

Logan Mankins fought the longest and hardest, holding out of six regular season games in 2010 before the Patriots made him the highest-paid guard in the league.

The Patriots even made Welker's best buddy -- the best player in the history of the franchise -- Tom Brady squirm briefly before giving him what he deserved.

So is Welker surprised that the Patriots are balking at a long-term deal, even though they have said it is their goal to get him locked up for multiple years? Of course not.

"No. It's pretty consistent," Welker said of the Patriots' negotiation tactics. "You learn from it. And at the same time, you just appreciate being able to go out there and play the game, appreciate the fact that you got the opportunity to win a lot of ball games. I look forward to that."

After Welker signed his franchise tender, he told the Boston Herald that he didn't think holding out would help his chances at a long-term contract.

History shows that isn't always true. When Patriots players have held out, some have been rewarded with generous deals (see above). But in some of those cases, their rewards came from another franchise in another city.

That seems to matter to Welker. On Saturday, he repeatedly intimated how much he enjoys being a part of the Patriots franchise and wants to stay there.

"I enjoy playing. I enjoy being out there. I enjoy being a Patriot," he said. "All those things go in together and we get paid to do it -- paid handsomely. I'm excited about that."

Welker also reitterated that his love of football is what helped force him to sign his franchise tender when he did. The thought of missing organized team activities didn't appeal to him.

He admitted that his passion for football may have worked against him during the course of his long-term contract negotiations.

"Maybe," he said. "I'm not too worried about it. I love playing, and I think that's something I need to put into perspective more. Not so much the business side of it. I enjoy playing, enjoy going out there being out there with my teammates and playing the game I love. I think that's the key thing I can do. The rest will take care of itself.

Belichick on Long's sack: One of the best defensive plays of the year

Belichick on Long's sack: One of the best defensive plays of the year

It came against a rookie quarterback. It came against an offense that averages a league-worst 15.0 points per game. It came against an offense that has fewer yards than any other. 

Still there are signs that Bill Belichick is pretty pleased with where his defense is after beating the Rams 26-10 on Sunday. One came on Wednesday when Patriots.com published its "Belichick Breakdown" for a closer look at a handful of plays from the team's most recent win.

Belichick called his team's third-and-eight stop with about 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter "probably one of the best good, team defensive plays we've had all year."

The Patriots show a five-man front, but linebacker Kyle Van Noy feigns a rush only to drop into coverage.

"Van Noy in here does a good job on the rush," Belichick said, "and also on the coverage on the back. Just good team defense. Good pass coverage down the field. The quarterback really doesn't end up having a lot of time, but there's no one to throw it to right away."

Belichick noted that all four rushers -- Chris Long, Trey Flowers, Dont'a Hightower and Rob Ninkovich -- all are able to pressure Jared Goff on the play. Combined with strong coverage in the secondary, the Rams nver really had a chance.

Belichick said it looked like a "tidal wave" of defenders bearing down on the quarterback.

"Long wins here . . . on the inside spin," Belichick said, "and Trey Flowers and Hightower both win on the little twist game inside. Then that's Rob with good speed-to-power on [Rams tackle Rob] Havenstein on the outside. Four good rushers. Plus a fifth guy...Van Noy getting that two-for-one on the guard and the back.

"Good team defense. That's great to see. A lot of hard work an execution on the practice field to make that happen."

Harbaugh on Belichick: 'I feel like we have a good relationship'

Harbaugh on Belichick: 'I feel like we have a good relationship'

FOXBORO -- They sounded like a couple of old pals. 

First it was Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who spoke of Ravens coach John Harbaugh during a conference call like one of his favorite fellow lacrosse dads.

"John and I saw a game a couple of years ago, a [Johns] Hopkins vs. Maryland game," Belichick said, adding that Harbaugh's love for the sport is just starting to blossom. "Yeah, I think John is seeing the light."

Belichick added that the two might be closer if they weren't competing so often, both in-season on the field and for free agents in the offseason. 

"As you know, we get into a situation like we’re in now where they have a good team, we have a good team, we’re playing a big game on Monday night," Belichick said. "Both teams are going to do everything they can to compete as hard as they can on Monday night. That’s what it is and that’s what we all signed up for. We all know that’s a part of it.

"When we’re not going head-to-head, which isn’t very often because we compete against each other in the offseason, we compete against each other to build our team and so forth, it just puts things in a little bit of a different situation."

During his press conference with reporters on Wednesday, Harbaugh echoed Belichick's sentiments. Belichick was famously one of Harbaugh's biggest supporters earlier in his career, calling the Ravens on Harbaugh's behalf when the franchise was looking for a new head coach. And if only they weren't so frequently competing against each other, they might be even closer, Harbaugh indicated. 

"I feel like we have a good relationship," Harbaugh said. "Like you said, we're probably not socializing that much, but I don't know how many coaches really do. We're all so busy. I'll see him or any coach at the Combine or at the owner's meetings, and we have a chance to talk. It's always good. I have a ton of respect for him. I really like him as a person. I think he's a great coach -- greatest coach of this generation. He's earned that title.

"And I study him. I've always studied him. I've always studied coach Belichick from when I first met him when I was an assistant at the University of Cincinnati, and he came in and just was great to be around.  [We have a] similar background with the special teams and that sort of thing. All of that kind of goes out the window when you compete against one another. It's like anything else, you want to win. I'm sure he feels the same way."

The recent history between their respective franchises is rife with emotion: There was Baltimore's irate reaction to Belichick's unusual formations in the AFC Divisional Round two seasons ago; there was the Ravens' supposed involvement in sparking Deflategate; and there was Harbaugh's subsequent denial. But Belichick and Harbaugh made it sound on Wednesday as if all's good between them.