FOXBORO, Mass. — In so many words, Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker said he shouldn’t be surprised that he's back on the practice field. He knows this, after all, because of how hard he has worked since he underwent surgery to repair the torn ligaments in his left knee.
"Yeah, I didn’t think it would be that big of a deal," Welker said about returning to practice last week. "I felt like I've been pushing it, trying to get ready and get out there with my teammates, get a few reps and try to get better as much as we can."
Welker met with the New England media Monday for the first time since getting back on the field. He said he's been medically cleared to practice and isn't limited while he's out there. Welker participated in a half-hour of Monday's session before heading to the practice bubble to work out with the team's trainers.
"I feel pretty good out there and still need to get back in the groove of playing ball, doing some things like that," Welker said. "Overall, it's feeling all right right now."
The wideout has been running hard and making good, strong cuts during passing drills. Other than the knee brace and early departure from practice, there's no sign that he's even recovering from such a serious injury.
Welker was asked if he'd be ready for the Patriots' season opener Sept. 12 against Cincinnati, but he basically declined to give a specific answer. He also said he didn't know if he'd be forced to play with the brace. For the purpose of speculation, it seems like a pretty good indication that Welker will be good to go in Week 1, and he probably won't be wearing that plastic cage around his knee.
"I don’t know what my expectations were," Welker said in terms of a return date for football activities. "My main goal was just going out, working hard every day, making sure I get ready and push myself every day, try to get back as early as possible.
"I visualize myself just going out there and helping the team as much as possible. Whatever that is is what it is, and whatever the coaches want me to do, that’s where I'm going to be. That’s all I can do right now."
He also said he's not lacking in confidence.
"I always feel confident," Welker said. "I wouldn’t be out there if I
didn’t feel confident, and I know the coaches and teammates have
confidence in me, just like I do them. We're just going to move on as
quickly as we can."
Welker also said he's not worried about overdoing it — he prefers the phrase, "pushing myself" — or coming back too early. It's a matter of Welker conducting business the only way he knows how to — by going all-out every single day and leapfrogging any odds that have been stacked against him.