Curran: Welker's workload getting ridiculous

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Curran: Welker's workload getting ridiculous

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran
OAKLAND - Wes Welker is on pace for 160 receptions. Wes Welker is on pace for 2,464 receiving yards. Wes Welker is on pace to get broken from overuse.

Sunday in Oakland, Tom Brady looked to Welker 14 times and connected with him nine. The Sunday before in Buffalo, Welker was targeted 20 times. He caught 16. He's got more than twice the number of catches the Patriots' second-leading receiver, tight end Rob Gronkowski (who's got nearly a foot and 100 pounds on Welker), has. He's got nearly six times as many catches as Chad Ochocinco (that Ocho's pulling down 5.75 million this year and Welker's haul is 2.5 million is laughable in the extreme). Injuries are unpredictable. Some guys who appear built for durability are forever breaking down. And those who would figure to be on the wrong side of simple physics in every collision -- Welker -- are seemingly unbreakable. It's worth noting here that the worst injury Welker sustained was a torn ACL on a play where he wasn't even hit in the knee.Despite his remarkable workload, Welker isn't worried about his health.
I feel like this is the best Ive ever felt, said Welker. This is the best Ive played in my career.Still, if there's a finite number of hits a player can take before something gives, Welker must be approaching it. Brady has thrown the ball at him 57 times this season. Fifty-seven in four games!!He has been thrown to more often that BenJarvus Green-Ellis has been handed off to (50). Bill Belichick on Sunday shrugged about the number of throws Welker's way and praised his toughness.
"You worry about everybody," Belichick said. "Look, its a physical game. Everybody gets hit out there."But the documentary of the 2009 season where Belichick expressed concern about Welker's health prior to the regular-season finale shows it's on his mind. The Patriots aren't going to sit Welker down or put him in bubble wrap. If he's out there and he's open, he needs to get the ball. But, frankly, there are other wideouts open as well. Most notably Deion Branch. Over the past two games, he's caught three passes after an explosive start to the year. Whether Brady's taking the path of least resistance and throwing to Welker because he's a sure thing or is truly led to No. 83 by the coverages play after play after play, only No. 12 can truly answer. But the Welker workload is going to have to be managed soon. Or he may not work so good.Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Belichick: Patriots have caught up after starting offseason 'five weeks behind'

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Belichick: Patriots have caught up after starting offseason 'five weeks behind'

FOXBORO -- After starting the offseason "five weeks behind," as Bill Belichick put it, the Patriots have caught up. 

"I think we’re probably caught up to where we are now," he said before Thursday's OTA practice at Gillette Stadium. "I think it’s being behind in draft, free agency and that type of thing.

"I think at this point, we’re ready for OTAs. We’ll be ready for training camp. I think that part of it we’ll be on schedule on. It’s the catching up on all the spring projects, draft and free agency. It’s the initial part of it."

Belichick made headlines on the morning after winning his fifth Lombardi Trophy with the Patriots when he said, "As of today, and as great as today feels and as great as today is, in all honesty we're five weeks behind in the 2017 season to most teams in the league. Fortunately we have a great personnel staff

"Look, in a couple weeks we're going to be looking at the combine, obviously the draft, all-star games have already occurred, and in a month we're into free agency, not to mention all the internal Patriots players (whose) contracts are up and we're going to have to work with in some form or fashion like every team in the league does."

Leaning on evaluations of players that began in the build-up to previous drafts, Belichick and his staff opted to trade away some of this year's draft capital for veterans like Brandin Cooks, Kony Ealy and Dwayne Allen. They also gave up their fifth-rounder to sign restricted free agent Mike Gillislee.

Before heading out to the team's third practice of the week -- the first week the Patriots were allowed to introduce helmets and run offense versus defense periods -- Belichick said that part of his focus will be spent on finding out how those players he picked up this offseason are progressing.

"Yeah, that’s definitely part of it," he said. "Seeing the new players, how they’re doing and also how they’re doing relevant to the rest of the other players that I’m a little more familiar with. Again, each year is a new year, so even though we’ve seen some of these guys multiple years, it’s still starting all over again, seeing where they are, how they’re progressing in their training and preparation for the season."