By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Few Patriots players had a noticeably contentious, volatile relationship with Bill Belichick like Wes Welker did. The former Patriots receiver found himself in hot water with the head coach before the team’s 2010 AFC Divisional Playoff game against the Jets, and was the target of sharp criticism from Belichick after what the coach thought was a dirty play he made against the Patriots when he was a member of the Denver Broncos.
So when the Houston Texans revealed Welker as the newest member of their coaching staff in an announcement on Monday, Belichick was sure to be asked for his thoughts on the hire. Welker is listed as an offensive/special teams assistant.
Clearly, Belichick had a wealth of respect for what Welker brought to the Patriots as a football player.
“Wes is a football guy. He is into football. Whatever we asked him to do, block, run routes, return kicks, help us out in any way possible,” Belichick told reporters on Wednesday. “Wes was a good football player, is a great football mind, works extremely hard and [was] a very instinctive player.”
Although Belichick and Welker ostensibly had their differences during the receiver’s time in New England, there’s no denying his production and competitiveness when he played with Tom Brady.
“Nobody worked harder than Wes,” said Belichick. “Wes loved football. He was the ‘first one in, last one out’ type of guy.”
Welker totaled 672 receptions and 32 touchdowns in 93 career games for the Patriots, including appearances in Super Bowl XLII and Super Bowl XLVI. He joins other former Patriots players and coaches on the Texans staff, including head coach Bill O’Brien, assistant head coach Romeo Crennel, defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel, and special teams coordinator Larry Izzo.
Perhaps Belichick’s comments explain why Welker was apparently such a pain to coach at times: he had issues with the player because he was a great football mind. Maybe Welker questioned the coach more than others and that led to some minor dust-ups. Welker certainly defied Belichick with his string of subtle foot jokes before that infamous Patriots playoff loss to Rex Ryan’s Jets. The coach clearly wasn’t happy with Welker’s hit on Aqib Talib in the 2013 AFC Championship Game, which knocked the corner out of the game; Belichick called the hit “a deliberate play by the receiver” and “one of the worst plays I’ve seen.”
Belichick may not have liked some of Welker’s antics, but he sure respected him in a football sense. If he approves, you know your team made a good hire.
Matt Dolloff is a writer for CBSBostonSports.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Have a news tip or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.