ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Spoiled by all those spirals from Tom Brady, there was only one other quarterback Wes Welker was willing to play for: Peyton Manning.
Just four months into his pairing with Denver's QB, Welker didn't hesitate when asked on the eve of the Broncos training camp what, from his unique perspective, was the difference between the top two quarterbacks of his generation.
"They're both spectacular, so I don't think there's too much of a difference between them," Welker said. "It's like comparing Picasso and Michelangelo. It's hard to compare the two."
Welker isn't sure if he's a Michelangelo guy or a Picasso guy, either.
"I couldn't even tell you," Welker confessed, revealing he's less an art aficianado than he is a connoisseur of quarterbacks. "Somebody threw those names at me one time and I thought it sounded pretty good."
What sounds good to Manning is having Welker in the slot this season.
He'll team up with fourth-year pros Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker to give the Broncos a top receiving trio.
Thomas and Decker combined for 179 catches and 23 TDs last season, and Welker had 118 receptions and a half-dozen touchdowns in New England.
Of course, with a terrific tight end group and Manning's spread-it-around offense, Welker figures there's no way he's going to catch that many passes this season, and he's fine with that.
He said he doesn't need to be force-fed the ball to get into the flow in this offense. And he's certainly never been one to retreat to the huddle barking at the quarterback about how open he was on the previous play.
"For me, it's just doing my job and doing what I can do to help the team win. I don't think it's anything beyond that and really worrying about targets or catches or anything else," Welker said.
"And that's the way I'm looking at it and if that takes catching one pass and blocking all game or if that takes 10 catches, whatever it is, that's what it's going to be: whatever it takes to win."
For all his gaudy statistics over his career, Welker isn't really a big numbers guy. He doesn't judge his production strictly by statistics, so he's not going to sulk if he has a quiet day so long as somebody else is the beneficiary of him getting shut down.
"I judge it by whether I got a plus or minus on the play," Welker said. "Did I do what I needed to do on that particular play? And do it the right way? And I think that's the way you really judge it."
So, sometimes, two catches is better than eight, a quiet afternoon is better than a busy one.
"Absolutely. I think that's very accurate. As long as you're doing your job, your assignment, your technique, all those things and take care of your business, then I don't think it matters whether you produce or not," Welker said. "And hopefully if you do all of those things you do produce."
In the shy Thomas and selfless Decker, the soft-spoken Welker believes he's found a pair of likeminded teammates, too.
"Those are tough guys that work hard and want to do well out there on the field. I'm definitely excited to be playing with them," Welker said.
Welker was the crown jewel of Denver's $125 million offseason spending spree. He signed a two-year, $12 million deal with the Broncos after spurning the Patriots' offer of $10 million over two years shortly after Brady had restructured his contract to allow New England more salary cap flexibility to try to keep his targets together.
While the Broncos have an embarrassment of riches for Manning to choose from, the Patriots may start the season without their seven leading receivers from last year. Among them is tight end Aaron Hernandez, who was cut after being charged with murder this summer.
That's something Welker didn't want to talk about Wednesday.
"I just pray for everybody involved and just try to move forward with training camp and everything else," Welker said.
And he's eager to see what he and Manning can do together after all that success he had with Brady over the last six seasons, but he's preaching patience.
"Even in my fifth, sixth year in New England, I was still feeling like I was getting comfortable," Welker said.
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