The offseason always brings about a number of big changes in the NFL: coaches are hired and fired, college prospects evaluated and drafted, and veterans cut and traded. In the latter case, sometimes this can bring about some interesting and unexpected new pairings. Who, for instance, would’ve ever predicted Brett Favre going to the Minnesota Vikings back in 2009? Or Joe Montana leaving the San Francisco 49ers for the Kansas City Chiefs? Or, to cite a more recent example, Wes Welker deciding to catch passes from Peyton Manning instead of Tom Brady?
Making his first visit back to the New England area since he left for Denver, we caught up with Wes Welker, the former Patriot and current Bronco, to find out how his transition out west has been going, what his goals are with his new team, and what it's like to switch from one Hall of Fame quarterback to another.
Interview by Gus Turner
So you’re in Rhode Island right now for an event with hair loss expert, Dr. Robert Leonard, who performed a hair transplant on you last year. Having seen the results for yourself, who in the league would you say is most in need of a hair transplant?
[Laughs.] Well, I'm sure there's plenty of guys out there who are.
[Laughs.] No doubt. This is your first time back in New England since you left for Denver. I was wondering, now that you're back, what have you missed the most about New England since you've been gone?
Really, I think one of the main parts are the fans, and really just how great they are, and how emotional they are, and how much they love their sports teams. Definitely something you kind of take for granted.
What reaction are you expecting from them when you return in Week 12? And from your former teammates?
Y'know, I'm really not sure. We're just gonna have to wait and see. But I'm really looking forward to it, as I'm looking forward to the rest of the season. It's going to be a lot fun.
What've you enjoyed the most about Denver since you got out there? Have you been glad to be a bit closer to your home state of Oklahoma?
One thing is the weather. It's probably the sunniest place in the US. I've really enjoyed it. They've got plenty to do outdoors, and my wife and I have really enjoyed it. And yeah, it's been good to be a bit closer to family, and having a direct flight. If I need to get home for something it's definitely a lot easier.
Does it feel strange to be playing with Peyton Manning, who has been labelled as one of the biggest rivals of your former quarterback, Tom Brady?
Y'know I don't think we've really looked at it like that. We've just kind of looked at it as like, "This is my job, and this is a great opportunity for me." It's just kind of the business we're in these days. It's how the NFL works. There's really nothing you can do about it. You just have to try and put yourself in the best position possible.
What's the biggest difference you've noticed between those two in terms of how they prepare, their personalities, and what they expect from you?
Well, they both prepare really hard, and keep people accountable. They're great leaders out there on the field. They do everything you want in a quarterback.
How would you compare the coaching styles of John Fox and Bill Belichick? Does one of them have a style that you prefer?
They're both great coaches. They both do a great job of getting their players ready to play, and making sure they're putting their potential out there. I haven't really been with Fox long enough to really get the full spectrum of it all with him, so it's hard to compare.
One of New England’s recent additions, Danny Amendola, has been compared to you a lot because of his size and hands; it’s sort’ve like you set the template for a guy like him in the NFL. When you were trying to make it in the league, what WRs did you look at as players you could model your career around, or do you think you made your own mold?
No, there's definitely players that you look up to and try and get little things from. When I first came into the league I was with Tim Dwight in San Diego, and a guy named Eric Parker, who really showed me the work ethic it takes to be an NFL receiver, and I've really tried to keep that with me. I also watched a lot of Wayne Chrebet growing up; different guys like that, just trying to pick up things along the way.
You said in an interview published recently that you feel like you can be yourself a little bit more in Denver. What sides of yourself as a teammate or an individual do you think have been able to come out more with this move? What is it about New England’s organization that allows them to keep things locked down so heavily?
Y'know, I don't know. That was kind of a weird deal, because it was basically like, "Do you feel like you can be yourself here?" and I said, "Yeah, y'know, I feel like I'm being myself a little bit more." But I don't know why it got so many headlines like it did.
I guess it'd just have something to do with New England's organization being so famously tight-lipped...
No, I know. I get it. Trust me.
[Laughs.] Speaking of press relations, though, you took a little bit of flack on Twitter about a week ago for a tweet you sent out to a HS recruit saying that he should choose Texas Tech over BYU. Do most guys in the league rep their schools hard like that?
Oh, all the time. They talk up their schools all the time, and I'm no different. I know what a great coach Kliff [Kingsbury] is and how good the coaching staff is there at Texas Tech. I'm just trying to let those kids know how good they are. I guess I may be biased or whatever but I feel like I'd be almost handicapping them if I didn't let them know. But I should probably, definitely stay away from things like that on Twitter, I guess.
I noticed you guys had a couple rookies on your roster from BYU. Did they have anything to say about it?
I didn't even know we had any guys from BYU on our roster.
Okay, final question, then: You went to five Pro Bowls during your time in New England, and had five seasons of over 100 receptions, but Denver had some guys of their own emerge last year in Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Jacob Tamme, and Joel Dreessen. Do you find yourself concerned about the amount of passes you’ll be seeing thrown your way this season?
Not at all. I'm just focused on helping my team win.