Curran: Welker's joke was a matter of pride


Curran: Welker's joke was a matter of pride

First things first. Of course it was a joke.

Wes Welker's primary motivation for playing brilliantly is not to "stick it in Bill's face."

But it defies logic to think Welker's pride wasn't hurt at the start of this season. No matter the logic behind tapering off Welker's reps and targets, it was an affront to have him begin the season as a spectator.

And, Week 2 offered even more of the same until Aaron Hernandez got hurt.

If one exceeds their designated role for five seasons, as Welker did, then gets stood up at the bargaining table, as Welker was, you're going to be a little cynical. And if you give up your leverage for the good of the team and then have to watch the succession plan unfold while you stand on the sidelines, you're going to be irked. Or blind with rage.

Now, because of the Hernandez injury and the hand injury to Welker's apprentice Julian Edelman, he's the hub again and he's tied for second in the NFL with 38 catches. He's been thrown to 47 times in the last four weeks.

Who wouldn't feel a little vindicated? Who wouldn't find it hard to resist pointing out to management that you were the best when they tried to replace you and you're the best still?

So that's what Welker did. With a wink and a smile.

Now, there are two ways the Patriots and Bill Belichick can go with this. They can get indignant and let their pride run wild. They can put Wes back in his place by benching, scolding or -- when Hernandez returns -- freezing him out. They can show them who's boss and make sure he never forgets it.

But haven't they done that enough? Haven't they already shown Welker they have him by the stones by the way they treated him this offseason?

(Yes, I know 9.5 million franchise tender is a lot of money; let's not pretend the NFL is the real world.)

The guy signed his tender on time, got to minicamp and training camp and clearly worked his ass off to keep himself in condition while the Patriots showed little urgency to get a contract extension done despite promises that they would.

Welker knows who's boss. He lives it every day knowing that, if he blows an ACL in practice or a game, his future is murky as hell despite what he's done. He knows he hasn't banked as much money as he should have despite his production and that the reason for that is standing on the sidelines in a sweatshirt.

Welker knows that, in the end, he's a widget. And what he said Sunday reflected the frustration of that reality.

Which brings us to the second way the Patriots and Belichick can go with this. They can smile, say they love Wes and his sense of humor and leave him the hell alone.

Welker took a two-second opportunity to save some face on Sunday with a joke probably best left unsaid.

Now the ball is in Belichick's court. He can get indignant and prideful over a public affront. Or he can let it go for the good of the team.

Rob Gronkowski appears to thoroughly enjoy himself at Daytona 500

Rob Gronkowski appears to thoroughly enjoy himself at Daytona 500

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski attended the Dayton 500 in true Gronkowski form.

He appeared to be there promoting Monster Energy drink, and was therefore hanging with the Monster Girls, who were also promoting the drink. Gronkowski's herniated disc injury, which required surgery in December 2016, does not seem to be slowing him down as he gets warmed up for the Summer of Gronk.

During the race coverage on FOX Sports, Gronk delivered a speed limit joke, which is sure to make the 13-year-old in you chuckle. (You can watch it here.)


Curran: It's time to let the air out of Deflategate

Curran: It's time to let the air out of Deflategate

I think it’s time. Time to let the Deflategate wound scab over. Time to exit the active, raging, teeth-gnashing, petition-signing, lawsuit-filing portion of the program and let the hate follow its natural course into a slow-boil loathing.

If you are of Irish descent, you know how it works. Clear a big-ass space on the grudge shelf. Put Roger Goodell, Jeff Pash, Mike Kensil, Troy Vincent, Ryan Grigson, Jim Irsay, every shiv-wielding owner, all the cluck-clucking media and the legion of retired players and exiled GMs from Marshall Faulk to Joey Porter through Marty Hurney and into Bill Polian up there. Turn off light. Leave room.

When you need to piss yourself off -- in traffic, mowing the lawn, waiting for your coffee -- fetch ‘em down, blow the dust off and when you’re in a sufficiently foul mood, return grudge to shelf.

You rode the roller coaster. You’ve been there, done that and have all the T-shirts.

I came to this conclusion a few days ago, when ESPN’s Cari Champion interviewed Rob Gronkowski and asked about Goodell visiting Gillette. It was like playing “Get the Stick!” with a big goofy Lab. Champion threw the leading question, Gronk fetched -- tail-wagging --  and returned with a slobbery response that was completely implausible but still designed to dominate a four-hour news cycle.

"The fans are nuts, they’re wild, and they have the Patriots’ back no matter what,” said Gronkowski. “They have [Tom Brady’s] back. I’m telling you, he won’t get through the highway if the fans saw him. I don’t even think he can even land in the airport in Boston because Patriot fans are the best fans, they’re the most loyal fans. I’m telling you, they might just carry out Roger themselves. They couldn’t even get to the stadium in Foxboro if he landed in Boston."

Gronk’s just doing what he thinks he’s supposed to do. And Champion is, too. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel.

Watch these mooks up in New England get all pissed off: “Hey, hey, Chowderhead . . . Roger Goodell . . . . ”

“F*** that guy, he better never show his face in Foxboro! But I want him to come to Foxboro so I can boo the ever-living s*** out of him and maybe barricade Route 1 like Gronk said we would!”

See? Works every time.

The irony is that the person mainly responsible for turning up the burner on this is Robert Kraft.

In May 2015, Kraft said at the owners meetings in San Francisco, “I don’t want to continue the rhetoric that’s gone on for the last four months. I’m going to accept, reluctantly, what he has given to us, and not continue this dialogue and rhetoric, and we won’t appeal.

“Now, I know that a lot of Patriots fans are going to be disappointed in that decision, but I hope they trust my judgment and know that I really feel at this point in time that taking this off the agenda, this is the best thing for the New England Patriots, our fans, and the NFL, and I hope you all can respect that.”

Well, that blew up like an ACME bomb. And -- from that moment on -- Kraft has tried to recoup the fanbase that believed he sold them out by issuing a succession of calls-to-arms that the region has dutifully responded to.

The most recent was throwing down the gauntlet to Goodell by expressly inviting him to the 2017 season opener.  I mean, it would have been a conversation point anyway, but now it’s metastasized into something that will be discussed throughout the offseason, ratcheting up in early September and hitting a crescendo on opening night.

There is appeal to seeing Goodell squirm while knowing the Maras, Rooneys and Irsays will be sipping highballs and lamenting the caddish treatment of Poor Roger. But I still like the football better.

Conversation about the historic import of SB51, the legacy of Brady and Belichick, prospects for the league in 2017? I’ll take those rather than an ESPN “personality” who spent a weekend in Newburyport at a friend’s wedding telling everyone what the mindset of the New England sports fan is.  

But that’s not what we’re going to get. There will instead be ever-escalating predictions of the terrors Goodell will be subjected to fueled by interviews with tatted-up kids from the mean streets of Marshfield who wanted “Hoodie” fired when he let Revis sign with the Jets.

Unless . . . unless the region en masse decides to let its loathing mature. Mature to the point that when the carrot gets dangled in its collective face it doesn’t leap at it with teeth bared but instead says, “No thanks. Already full.”

Yeah. I don’t think it’s gonna happen either.