Denver Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker told Sports Illustrated that Bill Belichick was hard on him toward the end of his six-year run in New England, chiding him in front of teammates in a way the coach hadn't done previously.
"It was just kind of hard," Welker told the magazine in a story that appears in this week's edition, "one of those deals where you have to endure him, put up with him. ... But he does it to everybody. It's the way he is."
Welker's tenure in New England was already marked by its messy conclusion during the offseason, when the free-agent receiver joined the Broncos in a surprise move that resulted in a public squabble between Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Welker's reps.
"There were only two places I was going to play [Denver and New England], in my mind," Welker told SI.
"You always think you're one of those players who will be in one place the whole time, one of those guys they'll never let leave because you play hurt, do what it takes," he said. "But it's a different age. A lot of coaches, they like having younger guys. This game's so tough on you, it's all about, 'How many more hits can you take?' So they buy low, sell high. It's a numbers game."
Belichick disciplined Welker in early 2011, benching him for the first series of a playoff game against the New York Jets after the receiver made foot-related comments in a subtle dig at Jets coach Rex Ryan. Welker later said he regretted his comments.
Earlier this summer, Welker said he felt like he could be himself more with the Broncos than he did in New England, where Belichick instructs his players to say little to the media. Still, Welker acknowledged that even now in Denver he still thinks about his former coach when talking to reporters.
"When I'm answering questions from the Denver media, I'm not worried about what the Broncos' people are going to think," Welker told SI. "I'm worried about what Belichick will think. Isn't that crazy?"
Welker was the most productive receiver in the NFL while with the Patriots, surpassing 110 receptions and 1,100 yards in five of his six seasons there.
He told SI he still is adjusting to the Peyton Manning-led offense with the Broncos.
"In New England, if the middle of the field was closed, I'd run a seam route," he said. "It's something I've been doing for six years now, so I have to teach my brain to do it the way he's [Manning] expecting me to do it."