Notes: 'Foot' talk earns Welker an early benching

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Notes: 'Foot' talk earns Welker an early benching

By Art Martone
CSNNE.com

FOXBORO -- Wes Welker's subtle digs at Jets coach Rex Ryan's foot fetish during his midweek press conference apparently didn't go unnoticed by Patriots coach Bill Belichick.

Welker sat out the Patriots' first offensive series, and CBS' Jim Nantz reported it was a benching because of his "foot" talk -- Welker made 10 references to feet or toes -- during his comments to the media.

After the game, Welker declined to talk about it.

"Thats a coachs decision," said Welker. "You can ask the coach about that stuff. Im not going to really comment on that stuff."

"I don't have any comment on that," said Belichick when asked.

Welker finished the game as the Pats' leading receiver with 7 catches for 57 yards.

Belichick met Ryan at midfield after the game and embraced him for several seconds, talking into his ear. When asked when he said, Belichick responded: "Whenever I have a conversation with somebody else, it's between me and the other person."

Ryan also declined to divulge what Belichick told him, except to say it was complimentary.

The Patriots have lost their last three postseason games, dating back to the 2007 Super Bowl, and have lost two in a row at home. It was their first-ever playoff loss to the Jets, whom they beat in the postseason in 1985 and 2006.

The Pats' last stretch of three straight postseason defeats came in a 10-season span from 1985 to '94, running from Super Bowl XX (loss to the Bears in the 1985 season) through first-round losses at Denver (1986) and Cleveland (1994).

They'd never lost two straight home playoff games prior to this.

Veteran running back Fred Taylor was inactive for Sunday's game, and admitted afterwards that he's mulling retirement.

"I've just got to probably take time to be realistic," said Taylor, who'll turn 35 later this month. "I kind of know what my body's telling me, and what my family's been telling me. But I also know that this is what I've been programmed to do the majority of my life."

Taylor had seven 1,000-plus-yard seasons in his 13-year career, the first 11 of which were spent with the Jaguars, but was limited by injuries to just 7 games and 155 yards this year.

"I really don't know," he said. "It's just a whole lot to take in right now. I don't know. I know what my body tells me. I know what I've been thinking. It's kind of hard to play a game you love so much with limitations. Last year, with the ankle. I couldn't do the things I know I can do. This year, with the toes."

Matt Light is now a free agent after 10 superlative seasons as the Patriots' left offensive tackle, and -- like Taylor -- doesn't know what the future holds. But in his case, it's contractual.

Light plans to play next year. He just doesn't know if it'll be in New England.

"I've had a great 10 years here, this has been a great organization . . . " said Light. "I hope like hell to be here and continue to do what I've done, but we'll have to wait and see if that works itself out."

Brady now has thrown a touchdown pass in 17 consecutive postseason games, the second-longest streak in NFL history (the longest: 20, by Brett Favre). He also has 30 career postseason TD passes, tying him with Terry Bradshaw for fifth place on the all-time list.

Jay Glazer of FOX Sports presented video evidence on the FOX pregame show of the Patriots engaging in sideline shenanigans aimed at upsetting opposing punt coverage -- the same thing for which the Jets were punished by the NFL -- during the Week 2 game between the Jets and Patriots. According to Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com, "Though they werent standing shoulder to shoulder and toe to toe like Sal Alosi and his North Jersey mob, six or seven Pats were up on the edge of the sideline, and one of them appears to try to trip the gunner." Glazer added that the Jets learned of the manuever from a former Patriots practice squad player who signed with the Jets. That could be either former Pats quarterback Kevin O'Connell or linebacker Shawn Crable. The Jets were fined 100,000 for Alosi's act and for special teams coach Mike Westhoff accusing the Patriots of similar deeds. "A number of teams do it," Westhoff said on Chicago radio in mid-December. "There is a pretty good team up north that lines their whole defense up when they do it, so it's something that just kind of happened . . . If you watch them -- their defense when the opponent's punt team is out there -- they're up there pretty close to the line so it looks like they are trying to do it. Now are they doing anything illegal? Are they tripping anybody? Heck no. I'm not saying that. That's not the point. But, yeah, they're lined up there. Is it making a difference? I don't know. I really don't know, because to tell you the truth, before this happened, I never really looked at anybody's sideline in all my years." It's not a huge leap of reason to presume the Jets were - in some way - involved in making sure the video (conclusive or not) saw the light of day.
Danny Picard and Tom E. Curran contributed to this story.Art Martone can be reached at amartone@comcastsportsnet.com.

Patriots-Steelers injury report: Seven Pats listed as questionable

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Patriots-Steelers injury report: Seven Pats listed as questionable

FOXBORO -- The Patriots will head into Sunday's AFC title game with seven players listed as questionable, including three receivers. 

Danny Amendola, Malcolm Mitchell and Chris Hogan have all been limited in practices this week due to their injuries. Amendola has been dealing with an ankle issue since a Week 13 win over the Rams, while Mitchell has not played since injuring his knee in Week 16 against the Jets. Hogan suffered a thigh injury against the Texans and left the game in the third quarter.

Both Hogan and Mitchell indicated this week that they were moving in the right direction in terms of their recoveries. One would think that the Patriots would need at least one, if not both, to help stress the back end of the Steelers secondary this weekend.

Hogan has been the team's most consistent down-the-field threat this season, averaging a whopping 17.9 yards per catch during the regular season. Against the Texans, before his injury, he reeled in four passes for 95 yards. 

Mitchell, meanwhile, had a very productive second half of his rookie season before he was hurt. He compiled 25 catches for 306 yards between Weeks 11 and 16, establishing himself as one of Tom Brady's go-to targets. 

The overall health of the Patriots receiving corps -- which will also include Julian Edelman and Michael Floyd -- will bear watching when the Patriots and Steelers kick off in two days.

The injury report for Sunday's Patriots-Steelers game:

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

QUESTIONABLE
WR Danny Amendola (ankle)
TE Martellus Bennett (knee)
RB Brandon Bolden (knee)
LB Dont'a Hightower (shoulder)
WR Chris Hogan (thigh)
WR Malcolm Mitchell (knee)
DL Jabaal Sheard (knee)

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

QUESTIONABLE
TE Ladarius Green (concussion/illness)
LB James Harrison (shoulder/triceps)
RB Fitzgerald Toussaint (concussion)

NOT LISTED
RB Le'Veon Bell (not injury related)
K Chris Boswell (illness)
LB Anthony Chickillo (ankle)
S Sean Davis (shoulder)
C B.J. Finney (illness)
WR Darrius Heyward-Bay (illness)
DE Ricardo Mathews (ankle)
QB Zach Mettenberger (illness)
S Michael Mitchell (not injury related)
QB Ben Roethlisberger (not injury related)
LB Vince Williams (shoulder)