FOXBORO, Mass. — No one on the Patriots is dying to talk about their former slot receiver this week.
Wes Welker‘s former teammates — there are 33 of them on the Patriots’ 53-man roster — seem to be taking any personal feelings out of this week’s matchup. Kyle Arrington stopped himself before saying this is just another game, but that appears to be the way New England wants to treat this matchup with the Broncos.
“I think it’s just the nature of the business,” Arrington said. “Wes was a great teammate. One of the best teammates you could ask for. It’s the NFL. They have new guys. We have new guys. We just take it as — I won’t say another game — obviously it’s Peyton [Manning] and Tom [Brady] week, so it’s — especially coming off a loss — an AFC game.”
When broached about the subject of Welker, Arrington jokingly dismissed the Denver receiver.
“Mr. Welker? He ain’t here,” Arrington said. “We only talk about players in this locker room, man.”
But since Welker is on the Broncos now and the Patriots are playing Denver this week, Arrington acquiesced.
“[You're] lucky we’re playing him,” Arrington joked.
“Obviously there’s some familiarities there. On both sides. Ultimately, it’s gonna come down to trying to execute the game plan. We do have those one-on-one battles. You just gotta end up with the most wins.”
Arrington has been the team’s starting slot cornerback since 2011, s he had two solid years of lining across from Welker in that role at practice. Due to that familiarity, one would think Arrington would be the logical player to cover Welker on Sunday night. But with Alfonzo Dennard‘s status in doubt due to a meniscus scope, Arrington may be forced to line up across from Eric Decker, pitting rookie Logan Ryan on Welker.
There’s no perfect solution to who lines up where without Dennard in the lineup. Arrington is likely the better matchup both in the slot and outside. So the Patriots have to decide whether they want to better eliminate Welker or Decker.
Arrington has played well outside. He didn’t allow a reception on three targets when pitted against Mike Wallace and limited Ted Ginn and Brandon LaFell to two catches on three targets for 24 yards.
“Wherever the team needs me, I just love playing football, love being on the field,” Arrington said. “I’m a football player. I don’t want to be broken down into just a guy that does X, Y or Z. Wherever you put me on the field, I feel like I’ll do my best to help the team win.”
One logical explanation for why Arrington is playing against guys like Wallace and Ginn outside is that he may be the Patriots’ fastest cornerback. Arrington said he and his teammates were trying to determine who is the fastest player on the team during the offseason. Arrington hinted strongly that it’s him.
We won’t know who will line up against Welker between Arrington and Ryan until Sunday night. Whoever it is, the Patriots know Welker as well as Denver’s new slot receiver knows Bill Belichick‘s defense.