Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker spent the entire offseason trying to overcome the odds and make his way back onto the field in time for the 2010 season.
Mission accomplished, and what a performance it was.
Welker started Sunday’s game against the Bengals, and finished with 8-catches for 64-yards including two touchdown receptions, picking up right where he left off last year and didn’t look like he was showing any ill-effects from his surgically repaired knee.
One of his touchdown receptions was certainly earned, after he got drilled right after making the catch at the goal line for his second scoring grab. On the play the Bengals challenged it, but the replay showed that he had the ball at his chest so it was ruled the ball broke the plane so the play stood.
Welker said after the game that even he didn’t expect his return to start off with a visit to the endzone.
“I really didn’t expect to lead off the season scoring a touchdown on our first drive,” said Welker. “It’s definitely kind of a special deal. All the adversity and everything I’ve had to go through this offseason to get where I’m at, to score on the opening drive was definitely a cool thing.”
Welker had two touchdowns during Sunday’s win over the Bengals. (PHOTO:Icon/SMI)
After the game Belichick talked briefly about Welker, saying he was happy for the veteran and how the game turned out for everybody.
“I’m happy for Wes, happy for the whole team, happy for everybody,” said Belichick.
“You can’t say enough about him. He’s worked really hard and you’ve got to be happy for the success that he had but happier still for the team’s success.”
Quarterback Tom Brady spent a lot of time this offseason with Welker, throwing passes to him when the two worked out in California while the veteran receiver was rehabilitating his knee following his surgery. After hitting him for that first touchdown, he was excited to see that all their hard work had paid off.
“It was awesome,” said Brady about Welker scoring on that first drive. “I spent a lot of time with him this offseason, and the determination that he has is pretty remarkable.”
According to Brady, there was never any doubt about whether or not Welker would be out there today.
“He’s an extremely mentally tough person,” said Brady. “I knew in March that he was going to be back out on the field for opening day. It just goes to show what his mind’s all about, he’s really overcome a lot in his career and this thing’s only going to make him better.”
Welker also said there was never any doubt he’d make it back, and being ready for week one has always his goal.
“This was always my goal, to get back for week one, if not even sooner,” said Welker. “I didn’t know how much I’d play week one or anything, but I knew I wanted to be back and try and contribute to the team winning. We were able to accomplish that, so it’s on to the next step.”
“I had it pretty much instilled in my mind that I would be back. There were different scenarios that were talked about, with the [Physically Unable to Perform List], and save my body, and different things like that, but that’s just not in me. I can’t do that and sit there and watch my team out there playing and sit there and just workout all day. I was sick of it and I ready to get out there and play.”
It’s worth noting that in the final nine games of last season Welker was held without a touchdown reception, yet he had two this afternoon. Coming off of what he said earlier this year was one of the toughest offseasons he’s faced, after Sunday’s performance Welker likely eliminated any doubts fans may have had about how effective he’d be for New England this season.
Now it’s on to the Jets next Sunday at the Meadowlands, with kickoff scheduled for 4:15pm. In the meantime Belichick is going to savor this game and the fact his team is off to a 1-0 start.
“We’re going to New York,” said Belichick. “We know that’s a big challenge for us next week but we’re going to enjoy this one for a while.”