Welker makes a funny

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Welker makes a funny

And just like that, Wes Welker is second in the NFL in receptions. He's seventh in total targets (only five out of second place). He's once again established himself as Tom Brady's favorite receiver and helped restore order to the Patriots offense.

Then he did this, and in the process turned that entire first paragraph into a secondary storyline on this Monday afternoon.

I know a lot of people out there are angry that Welker's quote "Yeah, it's kind of nice to stick it in Bill's face once in a while." is a story at all. They think that this post, and everything like it is just "media generated nonsense," "an insult to journalism" and every other complaint that we hear every time something like this makes headlines.

And there's some validity to that.

Obviously, if Welker had said what he said last night, and then no one in the media mentioned it again, there wouldn't be an issue. But come on, that's not reality. You know that. And more importantly, Welker knows that. When he makes a joke at his coach's expense especially after all that's happened between them over the first month of the season he knows what's going to happen. He's well aware that the media will run with it, strangle it and beat it into the ground until another storyline presents itself.

But who cares about the media, the bigger question is: What does Belichick think?

Naturally, he was asked about the comments during today's press conference, and as he was, part of me hoped that the coach would just shrug it off. It's rare that Belichick shows his sense of humor during the season, but he's know to deliver a good jab. And this was the perfect opportunity:

"Hey, coach. Any comment on what Wes said last night on TV?"

"Yeah, yeah. I saw it. He might want to go back and have those hair plugs loosened. I think it's cutting off the circulation to his brain."

Everyone would have laughed. We all could have moved on.

Instead, Belichick claimed that he didn't "really see the comment," and then added the dreaded: "You should ask him what he meant by it."

That's Belispeak for: "I know exactly what you're talking about, but you're crazy if you think I'm sharing my thoughts with you guys. Why don't you go ask Wes, I've already instructed him how to answer."

And here's hoping Welker follows orders, there are no further disciplinary actions and this whole story flies away. There's too much other positive Welker conversation that should be occupying our attention.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

It's official: Patriots nab third-round compensatory pick in Collins trade

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It's official: Patriots nab third-round compensatory pick in Collins trade

The Patriots received a conditional fourth-round pick in 2018 from the Browns in return for Jamie Collins. That's how the trade was described on the league's transaction wire. 

The "condition" of that fourth-rounder? Well, if the Browns received a third-round compensatory pick in 2017, the Patriots would nab that pick instead. 

On Friday, the NFL announced that the Browns had in fact been awarded a third-round compensatory pick, which meant that almost three full weeks after Super Bowl LI, everything was still coming up Patriots.

In actuality, the odds were pretty good all along that the Patriots would get what they got

Cleveland lost Pro Bowl center Alex Mack in free agency last offseason when he opted to sign with the Falcons. Because compensatory picks are based on free agents lost and free agents acquired, and because the Browns did not sign any similarly-impactful free agents, there was a good chance Mack's departure would render a third-round comp pick that would be shipped to New England.

Had Mack suffered a significant injury that forced his play to drop off or limited his time on the field, a third-rounder may have been out of the question, but he played well (named a Pro Bowler and a Second Team All-Pro) and stayed healthy -- lucky for the Patriots -- missing just 17 total snaps in the regular season. 

The Browns comp pick that will be sent to New England is No. 103 overall. The Patriots were also awarded a fifth-round comp pick, No. 185 overall. That was a result of the league weighing the departures of Akiem Hicks and Tavon Wilson against the arrival of Shea McClellin.

The Patriots now have nine selections in this year's draft: One first-rounder; one second-rounder; two third-rounders; one fourth-rounder*; two fifth-rounders; two seventh-rounders.

The third-round compensatory pick acquired by the Patriots carries additional value this year in that it is the first year in which compensatory picks can be traded. A near top-100 overall selection may allow the Patriots to move up the draft board or build assets in the middle rounds should they be inclined to deal. And we know they oftentimes are. 

* The Patriots forfeited their highest fourth-round selection in this year's draft as part of their Deflategate punishment. They acquired a fourth-round pick from the Seahawks last year. Because that would have been the higher of their two selections, that's the one they'll lose. They will make their own fourth-round pick at No. 137 overall.

Gronkowski says he has 'no doubt' he'll be ready for start of next season

Gronkowski says he has 'no doubt' he'll be ready for start of next season

When it comes to projecting Rob Gronkowski's health, it's been best to steer clear of absolutes. There have been too many injuries, too many surgeries, to predict exactly how he'll feel months in advance. 

Still, in speaking with ESPN's Cari Champion recently, he said he had "no doubt" he'll be ready for Week 1 of the 2017 regular season. 

"Yes, for sure," he replied when asked if he expected to be good to go. 

Gronkowski also fielded a question about his long-term future in the sit-down. Lately it's been his coach Bill Belichick and his quarterback Tom  Brady who receiver all the life-after-football queries, but Gronkowski, 27, was asked how much longer he'd like to play. 

"I’m not really sure," he said. "I mean, I still love playing the game, and as of right now, I want to play as long as I possibly could play. My mindset is to keep on going."

Gronkowski landed on season-ending injured reserve in December after undergoing a procedure on his back -- his third back surgery since 2009. He's had nine reported surgeries -- including procedures on his knee, forearm and ankle -- since his final year at the University of Arizona.