BOSTON (CBS) — In their five seasons together in New England, it seemed like Tom Brady and Wes Welker could read each other’s minds on the field. Welker was wherever Brady wanted him, and Brady knew where to hit Welker so he’d come down with an easy catch (at least that was the case 99 percent of the time).
Even though it’s been eight years since the two connected on the football field, Welker still feels like he has a pretty good read on his former quarterback. So when Brady left New England this offseason after an amazing 20-year career with the Patriots, Welker wasn’t all that shocked by his departure.
“You hate to see it just because he’s been there for so long and it is going to be strange to see him in a different uniform and all those different things, but I wouldn’t say I was surprised,” Welker told WEEI’s The Greg Hill Show on Wednesday.
Brady is now in Tampa Bay, an image many NFL fans still have a tough time picturing. Welker sees the move as another challenge for Brady to prove his doubters wrong.
“Tom wants to play ball. I think for him he’s excited — he has some weapons down there in Tampa. I think he’s excited to get out there and play ball. It is another challenge for him in his mind I am sure, of proving people wrong — that he doesn’t have to be in New England to be great,” he said. “He will take on that challenge and I guarantee you he will be full steam ahead with it.”
Given his own experiences with the Patriots, Welker understands Brady wanting to move on from New England. The former receiver — now a coach on the San Francisco 49ers staff — said there were times when he did not enjoy playing for Bill Belichick, which ultimately led to his departure for Denver in 2013.
“I did want to be there, but there was part of me — I just like enjoying the game. I like having fun, all those things,” he said. “Coaching now, you learn a lot from the tactics and different things like that, but at the same time putting your own twist on it and understanding — I tell my guys all the time: ‘As long as we’re giving great effort and we’re on top of our assignments we’re going to be good. Once it’s not where we need to be, that is when we have problems.’
“Kind of being there, and there’s a big mental aspect to the game of being prepared, being this, being that, all those different things, but also enjoying yourself and having fun playing the game. I feel like you’re playing your best ball when you’re having fun,” he said.
Though Belichick isn’t as ornery as he comes across during his press conferences, he’s not the easiest coach to play for. He demands perfection out of his players and treats everyone the same — whether they’re a six-time Super Bowl champion quarterback or someone on the practice squad.
Welker enjoyed success during his time as a Patriot, but it wasn’t always fun for him. He was quick to give it right back to Belichick, and at times, it did seem like the coach had it out for the receiver. That was clear when Belichick essentially benched him for the first drive of a playoff game after Welker made a slew of foot jokes aimed toward Jets head coach Rex Ryan.
“I think there were some times where I didn’t really feel that for different reasons — the guys that we had in the locker room, the camaraderie that we had was better some years than others. We had all these different things and when you’re one of the highest paid players on the team, you’re expected to deliver and play like a highly paid player. There’s definitely pressure on that and all these different things is tough and it’s hard. Coach Belichick is hard on guys and tries to get the most out of him that he can.
“The way he goes about it is there are no superstars,” Welker said of Belichick. “Everybody has their role on that team. Everybody is going to get called out. There’s no preferential treatment and a lot of time he calls out the star players just to set the tone with the whole team. Like, ‘OK, he’s talking to Tom like that, well obviously he can talk to me like that.’ Tom has such a great way about him of being able to take it even though it makes him mad and everything like that. He takes it and he keeps on going to work and improving and improving on his craft and everything else. Everybody else just has to fall in line.”