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.

Tom Brady delivers video message at funeral of Navy SEAL

Tom Brady delivers video message at funeral of Navy SEAL

Tom Brady delivered a video message last week at the funeral of Navy SEAL Kyle Milliken, a Maine native and former UConn track athlete killed in Somalia on May 5.

Bill Speros of The Boston Herald, in a column this Memorial Day weekend, wrote about Milliken and Brady's message.   

Milliken ran track at Cheverus High School in Falmouth, Maine, and at UConn, where he graduated in 2001. Milliken lived in Virginia Beach, Va., with his wife, Erin, and two children.  He other Navy SEALs participated in a training exercise at Gillette Stadium in 2011 where he met and posed for pictures with Brady.

Speros wrote that at Milliken’s funeral in Virginia Beach, Va., Brady's video offered condolences and thanked Milliken’s family for its sacrifice and spoke of how Milliken was considered a “glue guy” by UConn track coach Greg Roy.

Milliken had served in Iraq and Afghanistan, earning four Bronze Star Medals and was based in Virginia since 2004.  He was killed in a nighttime firefight with Al-Shabaab militants near Barij, about 40 miles from the Somali capital of Mogadishu. He was 38.

The Pentagon said Milliken was the first American serviceman killed in combat in Somalia since the "Black Hawk Down" battle that killed 18 Americans in 1993. 

In a statement to the Herald, Patriots owner Robert Kraft said: “It was an honor to host Kyle and his team for an exercise at Gillette Stadium in 2011. It gave new meaning to the stadium being known as home of the Patriots. We were deeply saddened to hear of Kyle’s death earlier this month.

“As Memorial Day weekend approaches, we are reminded of the sacrifices made by patriots like Kyle and so many others who have made the ultimate sacrifice to defend and protect our rights as Americans. Our thoughts, prayers and heartfelt appreciation are extended to the Milliken family and the many families who will be remembering lives lost this Memorial Day weekend.”