OKLAHOMA CITY — New England Patriots receiver Wes Welker isn't too concerned about the NFL lockout at this point.
He's making the most of his down time, spending some of Saturday with about 180 kids who attended the free football camp he holds every year in Oklahoma City.
Welker tossed a few passes to the participants, threw in a few tips during receiving drills and lined up on defense during the 3 1/2-hour camp at Douglass High School.
"You've got to get into it a little bit," Welker said. "I get bored easily. So, for me, I've got to get active and D one of these kids up or catch a pass for 'em, throw to 'em or whatever.
"We have fun with it."
With more than four months to go before the season would start, Welker is comfortable for now catching passes off a machine in Oklahoma City and going through his own weekly workout routine.
"It's awesome because I'm on my own schedule," said Welker, who led the NFL with 123 receptions in 2009. "I don't have to talk to anybody; I don't have to see anybody. You see some of the same faces all the time. It's kind of nice not to have to look at them anymore and see them. I'm kind of enjoying it.
"I like being able to train on my own and be able to do some of my things. It's good to be with the team, but it's kind of nice."
Welker said he hadn't heard of any plans for Patriots players to get together for informal offseason work. Some Browns and Bengals have planned practice sessions, set up by their young quarterbacks.
"For the younger guys, I think it's a big thing to try and do that. We haven't really put anything together yet," Welker said.
He's glad to be healthy this offseason instead of rehabbing from two torn ligaments in his knee like last year.
The freedom provided by the NFL's labor dispute even had Welker joking, "Let's do a lockout every year."
"I think once people start losing paychecks, it'll probably be a little bit different. But I'm not too concerned right now," Welker said. "Hopefully at some point we get a deal done.
"I just know as players – I can speak for myself – I just want to play ball. Hopefully come fall, that's what we're doing."
He's also turning attention to helping out those in need in his hometown. A fundraiser last month raised more than $300,000, which will be spent pursuing his foundation's mission to help at-risk children through athletics and positive role models.
Douglass High School, the host of the camp this year, has twice received grants from Welker's foundation. The first was used to upgrade decades-old weight room equipment, and the second provided video technology intended to help get students recruited by Division I schools.
"We had a lot of kids actually getting noticed this year that probably would not have," Douglass coach Willis Alexander said.
Douglass also won the Class 4A championship last season, its first state title since 1976, and several of Alexander's assistant coaches volunteered their time to help Welker's camp.
"We use football to help educate these kids, to let them grasp hold of something positive," Alexander said. "The sport of football actually goes hand in hand with helping you prepare for life because it gives you all the life situations in a football game.
"The toughest, biggest game of all is the game of life."
Following the camp, Welker now shifts into figuring out how to divide the money from the foundation's most successful fundraiser yet by sifting through grant applications that can be submitted online.
"The ones that the board and everybody feels is worthy of those grants, we're going to spread that money around and hopefully do some good around the Oklahoma City area," Welker said. "Hopefully, at some point, we'll do new fields and things like that and have our own setup. But that's on down the road.
"We're getting there, it's growing and that's all we could ask for right now."
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