Welker, at least on the outside, plays it cool

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- After six seasons, 672 receptions and five 100-catch seasons, it's fairly clear the New England Patriots got plenty from Wes Welker.

And Welker got plenty from the Patriots as well. He went from a player who didn’t start more than two games in any of his first three seasons in the league and had been cut by the San Diego Chargers, to piling up more catches in six years in New England than any player in the league had over that span. As Welker continues to work through the league's concussion protocol, his first trip back to Foxborough with his new team does mean something to the Denver Broncos' leading receiver.

“[I’m] definitely excited, big game, big matchup, great environment,’’ Welker said. “ … I love playing the game, especially in big atmospheres like this. I’m doing everything possible on my end to get an opportunity to play in it.’’

Welker’s teammates say, after the receiver’s somewhat messy departure from the Patriots -- New England offered a two-year, $10 million deal as compared to the two-year, $12 million deal he signed in Denver -- they believe he would love to have a big effort Sunday night in Gillette Stadium. When Broncos’ interim head coach Jack Del Rio was asked this week, he said; “He’s a competitive guy, so I’m sure he’s looking forward to playing with some of his former teammates.’’

However, Welker chose to keep it as low-key as possible Thursday after the Broncos' practice. Asked if it would be strange to use the visitor’s locker room at the stadium, Welker even channeled a little Norman Dale.

“I’m sure it will be a little bit,’’ Welker said. “Another game, another field, same size and everything else. And I’m familiar with it.’’

Asked if he has said anything to the Broncos defensive players with any insights he may have on the Patriots’ offense or quarterback Tom Brady, Welker offered: “[I’m] trying to the best I can, trying to enlighten those guys … I’m really just preparing myself.’’

Earlier this week on a conference call Brady said he still keeps an eye on what Welker is doing with the Broncos, saying “we’ll kind of always be friends the rest of our lives.’’

“It’s not the first time this happened where a really important, integral part of the team has left,’’ Brady said. “I always keep tabs on him and certainly he’s playing with a great player [in Peyton Manning], he knows that. So, Wes is having a great year, their offense is having a great year. There are a lot of guys to stop.’’

“I stay in contact with Tom, not this week, this week we’re enemies,’’ Welker said. “Nah, we’re close, I wish the best for him, just not this week.’’