Welker would welcome expanded role

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- With tight end Aaron Hernandez nursing a right ankle injury that is likely to keep him out for an extended period of time, Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker could be in line to see expanded offensive duties. That's an opportunity the franchise's career leader in receptions would welcome.

"Obviously I want to be out there as much as possible," he told reporters on Friday at Gillette Stadium. "However I can contribute to help us win, that's my job."

As far as how Hernandez's absence has effected his reps in practice, Welker said he is focused on simply doing his job when called upon.

"I think we all just go out there and do our job to the best of our ability, and whenever you're called upon, you go out there and do that," he said. "And our job is to pick up the slack with Aaron being out."

Beyond Welker, the Patriots may look to recently re-acquired receiver Deion Branch and new tight end Kellen Winslow to help boost the offense.

Welker says having Branch back in the offense is a benefit to the entire unit.

"I think it helps everyone," Welker said of Branch. "Anytime you have a player that can contribute like he can, I think that helps everybody out a lot."

Winslow, who head coach Bill Belichick indicated could contribute on Sunday night, has been on the field for each of the team's three days of practice this week, and has already impressed his new teammates.

"He's a talented player, he gets in and out of breaks really well, runs well, and catches the ball really well," said Welker of the veteran tight end. "We'll look for him to help us out as well."