"Wes Welker sat back in a plush, leather chair in the lobby of the Denver Broncos training facility last week, conducting a post-workout interview without revealing the slightest hint of stress.
Unlike the conversations he had with reporters during his six-year stint with the New England Patriots – whose coach, Bill Belichick, scrutinizes his players' public comments with NSA-like zeal – Welker felt no urgency to walk the line between bland and unrevealing.
"I feel like I can be myself a little more for sure," said Welker, who signed a two-year, $12-million deal with the Broncos on March 13, a day after becoming an unrestricted free agent. Asked if he'd received any pre-interview lectures about what subjects to avoid, Welker laughed and said, "Here? No. … All they told me was, 'Just be yourself.' "
Long regarded in player circles as one of the funnier, edgier NFL stars, Welker may finally reveal that to fans after six years of mostly pent-up plainness. Indeed, the switch from playing with one future Hall of Fame quarterback (Tom Brady) to another (Peyton Manning) may not be nearly as jolting as the shift in organizational climate – or, to borrow from Jimmy Buffett: "Changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes" (and, in this case, farewell to platitudes).
On that front Welker, once famously benched by Belichick for the first series of a 2010 playoff game for having poked public fun at New York Jets coach Rex Ryan, is taking baby steps toward disclosure early in his Broncos tenure. For starters, he admitted that the Patriots' decision to let him hit the market—and, ultimately, to swing a deal with former Rams wideout Danny Amendola in a pre-emptive move to replace him – will serve as a motivating force in 2013.
"Wherever you can pull any sort of motivation that you need to use to go out there and play the way you need to play, I say use it," Welker said in response to a question about whether he hoped to prove his success wasn't merely a product of the Patriots' system. "So whatever it is, then yeah, I'll definitely pull from wherever I can."
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