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 email@example.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran