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Patriots notebook

Up against these Fish, Welker is the catch of the day

He has thrived vs. former team

By Michael Vega
Globe Staff / October 1, 2010

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FOXBOROUGH — When Tom Brady told the South Florida media in his conference call Wednesday that Wes Welker was “as good as they come’’ and “a great player for us’’ and that “I’m lucky to have him on our team,’’ the Patriots quarterback wasn’t exaggerating.

Because when it comes to playing the Dolphins, especially in Miami, Welker is something of a fish shredder.

Since coming to the Patriots from Miami in 2007 for second- and seventh-round picks in that year’s draft, Welker has made the Dolphins rue that transaction.

In three road games against the Dolphins, Welker has made 27 catches for 425 yards and a pair of touchdowns. In his previous visit to Land Shark Stadium (now Sun Life Stadium), Welker made 10 grabs for 167 yards; only problem was, it came in a 21-20 loss.

“It’s always great to go back to Miami and get to play at a place I was at for three years,’’ said Welker. “I enjoyed my time there and everything like that, so it’s always good to go back and see some familiar faces, although they’re not so familiar anymore.’’

Welker’s return will be even more meaningful, since it comes in an important division game, with the loser dropping to 2-2 overall and 1-2 in the AFC East, both having lost to the Jets. And there may be an added sense of urgency with the Patriots headed to a bye week.

“Division records are huge, especially in our division, because we have a really tough one,’’ Welker said. “We want to make sure that we’re going out there and getting all the wins that we can get, especially going into the bye week, so this will definitely be a big game for us.’’

In Miami, they usually are for Welker.

Mr. Popularity
These would qualify as heady times for Danny Woodhead, the newest darling of Patriot Nation, who debuted in last Sunday’s 38-30 victory over the Bills.

A week after being a Jet castaway, Woodhead became a beloved figure in Foxborough when he made his first NFL start at running back and scored his first touchdown on a 22-yard scamper in the second quarter.

Asked yesterday whether he did anything special with the ball, Woodhead smiled and shrugged.

“Nah, not really,’’ he said. “I was just excited that we were able to score. Not necessarily that it was me, but that we got the score.’’

And that, in a nutshell, is why Patriots fans have embraced the 5-foot-9-inch, 185-pounder from Division 2 Chadron State, where he was a two-time Harlon Hill Trophy winner as the best player in his division.

But Woodhead has remained grounded.

“Honestly, that’s not something I worry about or think about,’’ he said of his growing popularity. “But I think that’s probably more for you guys or everyone else.

“What I try to think about is what’s at hand and what’s coming up, and that’s the Miami Dolphins. My concentration is on working as hard as I can in the meeting rooms, the practice field, or whatever.’’

Nolan a handful
Among the defensive changes Miami made last season was bringing in former 49ers coach Mike Nolan as coordinator. “He’s a very good coordinator,’’ Brady said. “He’s got a lot in his plan. I think there’s a lot of stuff to prepare for. It’s a 3-4 defense, but there are a lot of 4-3 looks. There’s the nickel defense, there’s the dime defense, there’s blitzes from all those fronts, and they really do a lot of things defensively.’’ . . . Kevin Faulk, who is on injured reserve after tearing his right anterior cruciate ligament in Week 2, was in the locker room, walking sans crutches. Asked about the Patriots’ rushing attack, which yielded 200 yards in the first game he missed, Faulk said, “That’s what we had do to win the game. That’s what we did, so it doesn’t bother me. It could be that next week or it could be that every week, as long as we win the game.’’

Injury report
Cornerback Terrence Wheatley (foot), tackle Nick Kaczur (back), and running back Fred Taylor (toe) did not participate in yesterday’s practice, which was held in shorts and shells on the upper field near Gillette Stadium. The Dolphins reported two players who did not practice: defensive end Jared Odrick (ankle) and guard John Jerry (illness). Linebacker Channing Crowder (groin) was limited in his participation . . . With Faulk on injured reserve and Taylor not at practice, the Patriots signed running back Thomas Clayton, a 5-foot-11-inch, 222-pounder from Kansas State who had been on the Browns practice squad. Clayton was with the Patriots during training camp but was released Sept. 4. To make room for Clayton, the Patriots released offensive lineman Quinn Ojinnaka.

Michael Vega can be reached at vega@globe.com.

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