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

John Harbaugh: Ravens’ trickery different than Patriots ‘deceptive’ formation

John Harbaugh: Ravens’ trickery different than Patriots ‘deceptive’ formation

FOXBORO – John Harbaugh explained on Thursday the difference between the rules loophole his Ravens exploited recently and the one the Patriots exploited in the 2014 AFC Divisional Playoff Game that caused him to cry, “Foul.”

What it boiled down to? Everyone knew about the loophole the Ravens took advantage of when they committed an en masse holding penalty at the end of the game against the Bengals. 

Nobody had seen what the Patriots successfully pulled off when they made eligible receivers ineligible and vice versa and went on a touchdown drive that changed the tenor of the game.

“You’re right. I don’t want to get into all that,” Harbaugh said when I asked what the difference was. “That’s all been hashed out. I believe what I believe and I think it’s all been proven to be right.

“The point about [the punt hold] is, it’s been talked about, it’s been looked at, it’s been something that’s been used for 20 years so it’s nothing new,” he explained. “It’s nothing that hadn’t been addressed before by officials or the competition committee.”

Harbaugh said that, in Super Bowl 47, his Ravens used the tactic and his brother Jim, coach of the Niners, took it up with the Competition Committee. John Harbaugh supported the change, he said. The league declined.  

“Everybody knew about that so it didn’t create an unfair advantage for anybody,” said Harbaugh.

LISTEN: New Quick Slants podcast w/ more stories of Ravens antics

After the Patriots beat Baltimore in a tremendous game, Harbaugh was in a snit in his postgame press conference alleging the “nobody’s ever seen that [eligible-ineligible trickery] before.” He said the play was “illegal” and “deceptive.”

I mentioned that Alabama had run the play in a nationally televised game against LSU and that the Titans had done the same thing on a game-ending play against the Jets a few weeks earlier.

Aside from whether or not the information was accurately communicated by the officials, the tone of Harbaugh’s comments left little room for interpretation. He indicated the Patriots were underhanded and that his comments seemed to discredit New England.

“That was not the intent and if you go back and read my comments at the time and the tone of it anybody that takes it that way is taking it the wrong way,” said Harbaugh. “That was not the point of it at all. You had an eligible receiver that wasn’t identified and an ineligible receiver that wasn’t identified as such. The official had no way to identify that for the defense so there was no signal or any other way that they could do that. That was something that was addressed the very next week. If somebody wants to look at it some certain way, that’s not my concern.”

When I offered that referee Bill Vinovich not only identified Shane Vereen as being ineligible but added, “Don’t cover 34…” over the stadium mic, Harbaugh wasn’t having it.  

“That’s not something that had ever been gone over,” he insisted. “Players were never taught don’t cover that player. When you’re on the field, you can’t hear that microphone. That’s not something you can even hear or are listening for. The next week there was a tweak.”

Indeed there was. And not just with the officials then being on the hook to make more detailed announcements. The further tweak, perhaps spurred by the formation chicanery and Tom Brady’s recommendation that Baltimore “study the rules” came when the Ravens passed on intel to the Colts for the AFC Championship Game. One of the recommendations from Ravens special teams coach Jerry Rosburg was to watch that the Patriots’ sideline staff didn’t monkey with the kicking balls. That was included in a letter to NFL Operations man Mike Kensil along with an allegation that it was “well known around the league” that the Patriots deflate footballs before the game and that the league needed to keep an eye on that.

Harbaugh hasn’t hidden from the fact he found Brady’s comment offensive.

"I was pissed off," he said this past summer. "It was uncalled for. And the rules are deeper than that, and I know the rules, and I stand by why that play shouldn't have been allowed...So yeah, that should never have been said."

He has, however, disavowed any talk by his staff about the Patriots allegedly deflating footballs. "Any conversation that was had with the Colts had nothing to do with deflated footballs, which is what we've been saying since the very start," Harbaugh said in 2015. "I know that we've answered the questions from the beginning to the end very simply. Our yes is yes. Our no is no. We've answered questions directly and honestly and straightforward from the start."

Whether the Patriots’ formation plays and the Ravens response to it led to a $30M investigation that hijacked the NFL’s attention for 20 months and resulted in a four-game suspension for Brady is still not definitively known. Could Rosburg and the Colts equipment man have possibly discussed kicking ball chicanery without sharing notes on the belief the Patriots deflated footballs? Rosburg and former Patriots defensive coordinator and current Ravens coach Dean Pees were both spoken to by investigator Ted Wells. What did they offer

Just like everything else between Ravens and Patriots, it’s complicated.  
 
 

Should the Patriots rest the injured Martellus Bennett for a game or two?

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Should the Patriots rest the injured Martellus Bennett for a game or two?

Episode 80 of Quick Slants the podcast with Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry looks ahead to the New England Patriots final four games of the regular season against the team that has been in the crosshairs during the Bill Belichick era, the Baltimore Ravens.

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Will Tom Brady and company look for revenge against the team that started the Deflategate saga? The game on Monday will be a critical outcome to the seedings in the AFC. Tom Curran talks about a not-so-friendly run-in he had with John Harbaugh.

Also, with Rob Gronkowski gone for the year and Martellus Bennett less than 100%, would it be in the teams' best interest to sit Bennett for a game or two to get ready for the postseason?

Plus, a couple of Tom Brady topics - the extremely popular "What's  your number?" segment, and which of his 201 wins was the best one. 

"Quick Slants" the podcast is presented by Papa Gino's.