Curran: Welker's workload getting ridiculous


Curran: Welker's workload getting ridiculous

By Tom E. Curran 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 Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

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.