The news spread like a wildfire and the attendees of Sunday’s training camp couldn’t have been happier.
Wes Welker was removed from the active/physically unable to perform list and was finally cleared to practice by doctors and medical staff at the stadium.
Welker charged the field in full pads for the first time in six months sporting the greatly missed number 83 jersey, of course. The morning and afternoon crowds at Gillette Stadium were on their feet, cheering him on.
And the mood was set for day four at Patriots Training Camp.
The key observations included: Wes Welker’s removal from the PUP list, the Patriots continuing focus in the red zone and Canadian Football League looking for talent in Foxborough.
From the moment Wes Welker collapsed in Reliant Stadium in early January of 2010, Patriots fans and players alike were devastated at the potential loss of their most illuminating receiver. A torn ACL injury, surgery, rigorous therapy and just a mere six months later, Wes Welker was back on the field.
“I’m just happy for today to finally get here.” Welker assured the hoard of reporters clamoring to hear what he had to say, “... You all [say] it’s been quick. It seems like a long time to me.”
With the absence of Welker, Julian Edelman was dubbed the replacement slot receiver for the remainder of the season. Throughout Sunday’s practice, Edelman and Welker lined up one after another. Catch for catch, number 11 and 83 gave the Patriots a glimpse of the type of options Brady would have if both were to start. As Welker continued to ease into running a variety of routes, Brady had no trouble finding his favorite target in many of the offensive plays.
A sigh of relief echoed throughout training camp when Welker initially began making his cuts. Perhaps many feared that it was too soon, Welker reassured onlookers that his injury is not haunting his playability,
“..It’s feeling good so far. We’re trying to get that muscle memory back of making those quick moves and get that stuff back...”
From the looks of his performance in today’s camp, Welker appears to be on the right track.
Other top performing wide receivers today were Sam Aiken, Brandon Tate, Julian Edelman and Buddy Farnham.
Patriots Seeing Red
Last season, the Patriots struggled in being dominant in the red zone. While last season garnered only a single tight end that was rarely utilized, the inability of the Patriots to finish the job was difficulty to ignore.
A solution to the problem? Reviving the tight end position and recruiting players who literally towered over their opponents.
Rookies Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez have been doing an impressive job reminding Tom Brady that they are viable targets. Gronkowski is especially hard to miss standing at 6’6. Veteran Alge Crumpler will most likely be used as a blocking tight end to help the Patriots running game in the endzone.
CFL Present to Observe and Recruit
The Canadian Football League was present today at training camp to observe players that might be cut from the Patriots final roster. This provides another opportunity for players that have been cut from the 53-man roster a chance to earn a spot on a CFL team’s 46-man roster.
According to Patriots Media Relations, there were 10,000 fans in the morning session and another 7,000 in the afternoon. Welker's return and good weather prompted fans to turn out in record numbers. Training camp is free for the public. Players sign autographs after practice in the designated area -- fans are advised to bring a sharpie and something for the players to sign. The team has established a camp HOTLINE. Fans can check the hotline for changes to the practice schedule (508) 549-0001
Training camp continues Monday with just one session scheduled; 9:30 – 11:15am.
Kisha Tapangan is a contributing writer for PatriotsInsider.com She also maintains her personal blog Necessary Roughness and can be found on Twitter @KishaT. Be sure to check in all camp long for regular updates by Kisha from Foxboro