When a player is listed as “probable,” that means he almost definitely will suit up for their next game. However, this Sunday night is not just any game, the major story line being that it will be the 14th meeting between the goliaths of Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, but it will also be the Gillette Stadium return of Wes Welker, the all-Pro slot man who bounced New England last offseason for Denver.
The big question surrounding Welker will not be whether or not he will be effective due to the concussion he suffered last Sunday (I am putting the over/under at 7.5 receptions for number 83 in white), but whether 68,756 Patriot fans will boo one of the most effective players in franchise history.
It can be debated that Boston is the greatest sports town in the country. After all, Boston fans are praised for their loyalty and knowledge of the sport to which they follow, but if you ever watched a Patriots game when the home team is trailing at any point, boos rain down. It is quite sad really, given the fact that Patriots fans have been spoiled beyond belief with their favorite team posting a .728 winning percentage in the Bill Belichick years.
If history tells us anything, a player with Welker’s significance will hear the jeers. Only a few years ago, the Patriots hosted a decrepit and then-win-less Indianapolis Colts team. In the second quarter of that December game, Adam Vinatieri kicked a 31-yard field goal that tied the game at three. Out came boos that caused the true Patriots fans to cringe. This was the guy whose foot, combined with clutch genes, helped win New England its only three Super Bowls. Without Vinatieri’s 45-yarder towards the end of regulation in the infamous “Snow Bowl” game, there may never be a Patriots’ dynasty, and that is what he got in return?
Vinatieri never snubbed on an important play in New England, which is the only downfall to Welker’s stint for the Patriots that happened on the playing field. His drop in Super Bowl XLVI would have sealed the title, but instead, it may be what he is most remembered for, but that one play still does not justify boos come Sunday. What Patriots fans should consider when Welker makes his first catch this Sunday (which I am saying will come early on the Broncos’ first offensive series), is how he hardly never missed a game in six years, led the NFL in receptions three times, is the Patriots all-time leader in receptions, was a two-time all-Pro (despite only catching four touchdowns in 2009), and that this current Patriots team would be the front-runner for the AFC’s top seed right now if he was on the roster. Consider those things, and Gillette Stadium will give a roar of approval instead of boos of disgust to the best receiver in team history.