Going unnoticed in this debate is the possible impact receiver Wes Welker will have in the game. Welker did tie a Super Bowl record with a 11 catches for 103 yards in Super Bowl XLII without the Patriots having strong tight ends then and at last check, Welker is the NFL's leading receiver. He's caught 554 passes since 2007, more than any other receiver in the league, for 6,105 yards and 31 touchdowns.
When seeing Rob Gronkowski in a walking boot a week before the game, Welker said "it's concerning, but at the same time you don't really worry about it. You just go out there and do your job and understand that we have a big game ahead of us, and you have to prepare and get ready. All of the other stuff will take care of itself in the end."
Welker has a right to be confident, before he was a All-Pro receiver with the Patriots and starter in Super Bowl XLVI, he was an undrafted free agent signing with the San Diego Chargers in 2004. Welker attended the Chargers offseason minicamps that spring and the team's summer training camp. Despite surviving final roster cuts to make the opening day roster, he was cut after the first game. He was definitely unnoticed then.
Welker In San Diego (Getty))
Welker said he still remembers what it was like being released by the Chargers and the feeling continues to fuel him. "Trust me, I take nothing for granted as far as football goes and as far as my career and understanding that you never know when your time is up," said Welker. "They can cut you at any time. I remember back then, I made the team and being a rookie, I didn't know that they could cut you in the middle of the season ... The next week I was cut. It was definitely a very humbling experience for me."
Welker was then signed by Miami that same year and spent two more average seasons with the Dolphins. However, when Miami played their AFC East rival Patriots, Welker caught the eye of Patriots coach Bill Belichick.
"He was a very frustrating player to coach against because we really couldn't handle him," said Belichick at the site of the Super Bowl in Indianapolis. "He caught passes, he returned kicks, and when (Olindo) Mare got hurt, he even went in and kicked extra points, field goals and kicked off against us. That was annoying, too. We doubled him; we played him in different combinations. He was always the guy we were trying to game plan for, and still couldn't stop."
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"When we had an opportunity to trade for him, we did that. We felt like he would be a good addition to our team, and he has been. We have just as much trouble covering him in practice, and Tom (Brady) has just as much confidence throwing to him as the quarterbacks in Miami did when we were trying to defend him … he drove us crazy."
Welker had 122 receptions for 1,569 yards and nine touchdowns in 2011. On Sunday, expect Welker to drive the Giants defense crazy, whether Gronkowski is on the field or not. He will be noticed!
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Kevin Saleeba is a frequent contributor and columnist to Patriots Insider. A former beat writer for local media, Kevin has extensive knowledge of the team and experience covering the Patriots. Share your thoughts on this article, or send your questions to Kevin ( on Facebook ).
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