Wes Welker's season officially ended on Wednesday when the New England Patriots placed the NFL's leading receiver on injured reserve.
His long road to recovery began with some advice from quarterback Tom Brady, who suffered a similar season-ending left knee injury in the 2008 opener.
"I spoke to Wes and I said, 'Things kind of change and evolve in your life a little bit when you have an injury like that,'" Brady said Wednesday. "You really appreciate the game ... not that you didn't appreciate it before, but it's just a different level when you don't have the opportunity to play."
Welker was running after making his NFL-best 123rd catch on Sunday when his left leg buckled as he planted it to make a cut. He fell to the ground, grabbed his knee and was helped off the field.
The Houston Texans scored 21 points in the fourth quarter to come from behind and beat the Patriots 34-27.
Brady said he's spoken with Welker a few times since then.
"He's one of my best friends," Brady said. "He's doing good, all things considered."
Welker is sidelined, but all the Patriots participated fully in practice Wednesday except for offensive lineman Dan Connolly, who missed the session with an ankle injury.
The Patriots have had a full week for Brady to practice with rookie Julian Edelman, Welker's backup, for Sunday's playoff game against Baltimore.
"You certainly have more time to prepare" than if Welker were to get hurt during the Ravens game, Brady said. "Last week, we had a game plan that featured Wes a lot and plays that were for him and plays that he worked on in practice."
Brady is feeling more comfortable after practicing this week with Edelman.
"For two days you're going, 'We don't have Wes. What are we going to do?'" Brady said. "And then you put together a game plan and you get out there and practice and you're like, 'Man, OK. All that stuff looks pretty good.'"
Not as good as it would look if Welker were practicing.
The 5-foot-9 receiver's 346 catches over his three seasons with the Patriots are the most in the NFL in that period. He's one of the league's best at running after the catch. And teams have a tough time double teaming both him and Randy Moss.
His absence could make it tougher for Moss to break free.
Edelman, a college quarterback at Kent State, did catch 10 passes after Welker was hurt and showed shifty moves similar to Welker's.
Brady joked that he's happy Edelman switched positions.
"It's pretty remarkable what he's done as a former quarterback, which I don't know how he was a former quarterback because he can't throw at all," Brady said with a smile. "He threw for 2,000 yards. I'm like, 'Man, you can't hit that wall over there.' Somehow he was playing.
"I'm glad he plays receiver and not quarterback anymore, for his sake and our sake."
The Patriots signed linebacker Thomas Williams, a fifth-round draft choice by Jacksonville in 2008, from their practice squad.
They also added wide receivers Nick Moore and Robert Ortiz to the practice squad, and placed wide receiver Darnell Jenkins on the practice squad/injured list with an ankle injury.