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Different route for Welker

He may not report for Patriots’ OTA

By Shalise Manza Young
Globe Staff / April 4, 2012
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Wes Welker, designated as the Patriots’ franchise player last month, said on Tuesday he “isn’t sure’’ if he’ll report to Foxborough for the offseason training program April 16.

The veteran receiver, who was in New York City for the unveiling of the new Nike-designed NFL uniforms - other than the Seattle Seahawks, the jerseys are nearly identical to the ones Reebok rolled out for the previous several years - modeled the Patriots uniform.

“I don’t know,’’ Welker said about organized team activities, according to NFL.com. “I’m not quite sure yet. We’ll have to wait and see how things go. But to tell you the truth, I really haven’t made up my mind yet.’’

If Welker takes part, he has to sign the franchise tender for liability purposes. The tender will pay him a fully guaranteed $9.515 million for the 2012 season. However, the offseason training program is voluntary, so even players under contract who choose not to take part cannot be punished by the team, though some players have workout bonuses tied to their participation in the program.

Two years ago, Ty Warren missed out on a $250,000 workout bonus to take classes at Texas A&M to complete his degree.

Welker’s agent, David Dunn, and the Patriots’ personnel braintrust were present at the league meetings in Palm Beach, Fla., in March, but it appears there was not much progress made on a long-term contract.

On Tuesday, Welker said there had been none that he knew of.

The NFL leader in receptions since he was traded to the Patriots from Miami in 2007, Welker acknowledged he’d like the security of a multiyear contract.

“I think the main thing is, I just want to focus on football and not have to worry about anything else. That’s the hardest part,’’ he said. “You’re trying not to be a distraction for the team, but at the same time, it’s a distraction for yourself. You just want to be able to move on and play football.’’

After suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the 2009 regular-season finale, Welker pushed himself to get back onto the field for the season opener seven months after his surgery. He said that injury is in the back of his mind.

“It has a pretty big effect, because you don’t know what’s going to happen,’’ he said. “Every day, every time you’re out there on the field, one misstep and you never know - everything you’ve worked for [could be] gone. It’s a risk that you take and a risk I took all last season. At least this time, it’ll be at a little higher pay.’’

Welker told ESPN.com the franchise tag isn’t so bad in one regard: the $9.515 million is more than half of what he made during the course of his five-year deal with the Patriots.

As far as the uniforms, although they don’t look different, Nike said they are lighter, keep players cooler, and are more form-fitting across the shoulder pads.

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