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Patriots notebook

Something afoot with Welker’s answers?

Wide receiver makes curious word choices

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By Monique Walker
Globe Staff / January 14, 2011

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FOXBOROUGH — Wes Welker didn’t get to participate in all this fun last season.

The Patriots receiver was sitting in box seats at Gillette Stadium, his injured knee propped up, while his teammates took on the Ravens in the wild-card round.

Welker rehashed those days in his first media session of the week yesterday, and later drew a few snickers — whether he intended to or not — with his playful choice of words about the Jets-Patriots matchup.

Welker’s dry sense of humor may have been on display as he dropped references to “foot’’ or “toe’’ 10 times in a press conference that stretched about nine minutes. He also used the phrase "step-up." The choice of words could have been considered a dig at Rex Ryan and the foot-fetish videos that some believe feature the Jets coach and his wife.

Welker’s first reference came in his response to an opening question about Tom Brady’s value during the postseason.

“It goes without saying, the guy is who he is and he does a great job of making sure everyone is on the same page and putting their best foot forward going out there and playing well and doing what they can out there,’’ Welker said.

Asked how to convey a sense of urgency to younger players for the postseason, Welker said, “You just talk to them. It’s a playoff atmosphere and you can’t just stick your toe in the water, you’ve got to jump right in and make sure you’re ready to go and make things happen.’’

When describing what makes Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis so effective, Welker said, “I think he is very patient. He has good feet. He moves around really well. He understands the game. He gets his hands on you pretty well.’’

Welker may have been a talking in clichés or showing a little cleverness. But the quote that may have given him away came when he was asked how the team is handling the playoff atmosphere at practice.

“[We’re] really moving forward and we’re going out there being good little foot soldiers,’’ Welker said.

Teachable moments Vince Wilfork looked up to players such as Richard Seymour and Willie McGinest in his early years with the Patriots.

Now as Wilfork moves through his seventh NFL season, he said, he doesn’t look at himself as just a player anymore. He assumes other responsibilities.

“I don’t know if I’m a player, I’m a coach, I’m a mentor — you name it,’’ Wilfork said. “Being a leader and being around this team for seven years, I kind of understand it to a point where if a guy has a question and Bill [Belichick], your coaches and staff are in meetings, they can easily turn around and ask any of these guys who have been around.

“It’s been kind of fun, though, because a lot of years you don’t see this. People will be shy to come up and ask a Tom Brady, Deion Branch, or Matt Light who have been playing this game for so long, to ask them questions.

“But I don’t think these guys are shy at all. They come up and they ask questions because they want to get it right because they know how important it is to us.

“So, they ask questions. I’m always talking, and teaching, and coaching and mentoring, watching film, we do it. I’m proud to be someone like that, that they can actually look up and ask me for questions and I can give them the right advice.’’

Bad timing Patriots linebacker Tully Banta-Cain has been limited at practice this week because of a groin injury but he said he isn’t dealing with anything unique.

“It bugs me, but it’s that time of year that you have to suck up a lot of things,’’ Banta-Cain said. “A lot of guys are playing injured right now, so you just got to suck it up.’’

The bye week gave players the chance to rest and let their bodies heal. But the Patriots haven’t played since Jan. 2, and Banta-Cain said he is eager to get back into a game setting.

“We got a chance to sit and watch other teams play,’’ he said, “and we had a week to prepare last week and now we’re excited to play a game that really determines the outcome of our season.’’

Familiar report The injury report didn’t change for the Patriots. Defensive lineman Myron Pryor (back) was out for the second consecutive day.

Banta-Cain (groin), Branch (knee), linebacker Jermaine Cunningham (calf), tight end Aaron Hernandez (hip), defensive lineman Eric Moore (hamstring), and offensive lineman Sebastian Vollmer (shin) were all limited.

Brady (right shoulder/foot) and cornerback Kyle Arrington (elbow) both fully participated.

The Patriots wore light pads and sweats as they practiced outside on the lower field behind Gillette Stadium.

Clear the way Snow removal was in full force as plenty of workers swarmed Gillette Stadium trying to get the stadium and surrounding areas ready for Sunday . . . There is always room for “greatest team’’ debates, and The Sporting News jumped in on the action with its top-10 list of the greatest NFL teams. The 1972 Dolphins — who went undefeated — were No. 1. But the 2007 Patriots, who finished 18-1, didn’t make the list. Instead, the 2004 Patriots were ranked No. 8. They went 17-2 and won their third Super Bowl in four years.

Monique Walker can be reached at mwalker@globe.com.

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