FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — New England Patriots receiver Wes Welker said on Monday that he was only joking when he said that he enjoyed catching 13 passes against the Denver Broncos to ‘‘stick it’’ in coach Bill Belichick’s face.
‘‘It was a joke. I don’t know what else to say about it,’’ Welker said during a rare Monday appearance in the locker room during media availability. ‘‘Bill and I, whether y'all believe it or not, have a good relationship, and it was a joke and I'll make sure to keep that in-house going forward.’’
Welker caught more passes over the past five seasons than any other player in the NFL, leading the team to use the franchise tag on him in the offseason. He accepted the $9.5 million contract that came with it rather than agree to a long-term deal that would have been more salary cap-friendly for the team.
Welker started the season opener but was targeted only five times, with three catches for 14 yards. He did not start the next game, giving way to longtime backup Julian Edelman and prompting speculation that Belichick was punishing him for the unsuccessful negotiations.
But Welker’s production has been as good as ever since the opener, averaging just under nine catches and 118 yards receiving per game. On Sunday, he had 13 receptions for 104 yards and a touchdown.
‘‘Yeah, it’s kind of nice to stick it in Bill’s face once in a while,’’ he said — with a wink of his right eye — in an interview with Comcast SportsNet.
Asked about the comment in his Monday news conference, Belichick said he hadn’t seen it. When a reporter started to repeat Welker’s comment, Belichick cut him off.
‘‘You should ask him about it, then,’’ he said. ‘‘What he meant by it, I don’t know.’’
About 90 minutes later, Welker showed up at his locker; he usually speaks to the media on Fridays.
‘‘You've just got to be careful with what you say,’’ he said. ‘‘And Bill does a good job of challenging us and being a great coach and doing the things necessary that he needs to do. I made a joke about it, you know, won’t happen again.’’
Asked if Belichick had spoken to him about the joke, Welker said, ‘‘Any discussions are between us and the team.
‘‘But he talks to all the players, all the time,’’ he said. ‘‘He’s our coach.’’
Welker was benched for the first series of a 2011 playoff game against the Jets after making mocking references to foot-fetish reports involving New York coach Rex Ryan.
Welker said he did not think there would be repercussions this time.
‘‘I don’t think so at all,’’ he said. ‘‘Nope. We’re just concentrating on Seattle this week.’’