Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, appearing on the "Dennis & Callahan" program on WEEI sports radio in Boston, says that wide receiver Wes Welker did not start during the team's Week 2 loss to the Arizona Cardinals because of a specific personnel grouping called upon to begin the game.
"It was just a personnel grouping where he's not in the game," he said of "12 personnel," which features two receivers and two tight ends. "We have a lot of different personnel groupings with him in the game, and there's a lot of guys on the roster. We're trying to utilize every player so that at the end of the year, one guy doesn't have 700 plays and another guy has 50 plays. Hopefully everyone can contribute and have opportunity and be fresh and stay healthy, because we need everybody. It's a long year."
Welker was on the field for 63 of 82 offensive snaps on Sunday, bringing his running season total to 106 of 149 snaps played through two games (71.1 percent). That's a significantly lower percentage than his 2011 rate (just over 89 percent), but closer to seasons before 2011 in which he had played roughly 75-80 percent of the offensive snaps. When asked if Welker's reduced load was a concerted effort to get him to a more "manageable" snap count, Brady stressed that it's still early in the season, and too early to overanalyze.
"I'm not sure, I dont know," Brady said. "I just thought, we don't sit there and overanalyze it after two games the way that you guys [do]. I mean, there's different weeks where we have personnel groupings and we use them differently, and we throw the ball a little bit more, some weeks when we run the ball a little bit more and it's just one of those games when we actually threw the ball way more than we wanted to throw it, it was just the way it was dictated.
"Wes is a big part of our offense, he had a big game yesterday, had some really critical catches for us. Brandon did, Julian did, Gronk did. All the guys that were out there were contributing. And we're going to need, now that Aaron's not in there, we're going to need other guys to play a bigger role."
The player who has seems to have absorbed some of Welker's playing time is Julian Edelman. Brady was asked if the fourth-year pro has earned more playing time.
"Julian's done great. Julian's really worked his tail off, and he's been here, it's his fourth year," Brady continued. "And everybody has a lot of confidence in Julian, and beleive me, no one has more confidence in Wes than me, and obviously I've gained a lot of trust in Brandon over the last four months.
"It's a really a good group of receivers, it's not like, you know, I mean Larry Fitzgerald had one catch for whatever, [four] yards yesterday. Some weeks they're trying to take a guy away and you've got to find a different place to go with the ball. Last year, we had three very productive receivers, and that was pretty much our production in the passing game. The more that guys contribute, the harder that we're going to be to stop. And if we don't play well, we're pretty easy to stop. If we don't make the plays that we're capable of making, we're pretty easy to stop."
One issue that a number of Patriots players pointed to after the game was a lackluster week of practice. Brady suggested that such was in fact the case.
"Some days you have good days of practice, other days you don't," he said. "Over the course of a long week, all of your preparation, how you play on Sunday is often a reflection of how you practice over the course of the week. When we're inconsistent in practice, we're inconsistent in games. We've got to find a way to be better in practice."