TAMPA - Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker did not take part in practice Thursday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Welker was on the sidelines in shorts and a t-shirt while the Pats and Bucs prepared for their second day of joint workouts.
There was nothing immediately evident to suggest why Welker was down. He did have a hair transplant performed by Dr. Robert Leonard in late June but there's little chance that getting his own hair back would do anything but make him stunningly handsome.
The Patriots make a habit of managing their key players' repetitions during camp and the chance exists Welker is merely having his work managed. But given the team was working in shells in advance of Friday's game and the workload wasn't heavy, we have to consider Welker's chances of playing as doubtful.
Also newly added to the spectator group was safety Ross Ventrone.
Bill Belichick said the Patriots planned to work on situational aspects with the Bucs on Friday. The coach remains his expansive away-from-Gillette self.
Speaking of the first day of work, Belichick said, "I thought it was a good day for us yesterday. I think we got a lot done and improved our team. Saw a lot of things out there that we haven't seen, and of course, competing against another team is good for us. So we spent a lot of time last night going over the film with the players as a staff, as part of critiquing ourselves -- as coaches and what we need to do better and also the players and how they competed against each other and the different matchups we saw in practice."
When Tom Brady returns to the Patriots following his four-game suspension, his team will be in sole possession of first place in the AFC East.
That became the reality as soon as the Jets fell to the Chiefs in Kansas City on Sunday, 24-3. The Jets committed eight turnovers in the loss to fall to 1-2.
The Bills and Dolphins each won their first games of the season on Sunday, taking down the Cardinals and Browns, respectively.
With the Patriots record at 3-0 following their win over the Texans on Thursday night, and with all three of their AFC East rivals sitting on just one win thus far, even if Bill Belichick's club was to fall to Rex Ryan and the Bills in Week 4, it would still be alone atop the division.
Surely the Patriots would like to have a zero in the loss column when Brady returns. Regardless, to be in first place when Brady's Deflategate punishment is finished -- and having achieved that mark with two different starting quarterbacks -- has to be a point of pride for the organization . . . and a source of agita for those who doled out the punishment.
Must be Bills week.
After Rex Ryan's club put together an impressive win at home over the Cardinals, 33-18, it wasn't long before the Bills coach was yapping about the Patriots and their coach Bill Belichick.
Ryan was asked about the quarterback situation in New England since both Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett are dealing with injuries at the moment. Who might the Bills see when they visit Gillette Stadium?
"Look, I can sit back and say I don’t care who plays quarterback, cuz I know (Tom) Brady ain’t," he said. "I don’t care who plays quarterback; Steve Grogan can play quarterback. If Belichick’s playing quarterback, we’re coming after him. I promise you that."
There's no indication yet as to whether or not Garoppolo or Brissett will be unavailable for Week 4. When asked about his level of concern when it came to his quarterbacks, Belichick didn't say much during a conference call on Sunday.
Ryan, like the rest of us, will probably have to wait for the Patriots to release an injury report before he learns about the status of either young passer. And until then, he'll have to prepare for both.