FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Standing in front of his locker, Wes Welker insisted he was happy for Aaron Hernandez.
Even if the New England Patriots’ tight end got what the Patriots’ wide receiver wants — a contract extension.
As the news broke of the team locking up the 22-year-old Hernandez to a five-year, $40 million contract extension, it would be understandable if Welker was upset. He’s delivered for the Patriots and despite wanting a long-term deal, he hasn’t been able to get one.
Even so, he said he’s in good spirits.
“Good for him. I’m definitely happy for him. He’s a great player and done a lot of great things for us and it’s good to have him here,” said Welker, who wouldn’t say what the extension means for his contract situation. “You have to ask Coach (Bill) Belichick that.
“I’m just going out here trying to do my job to the best of my ability and let everything else take care of itself.”
After failing to reach a long-term agreement, Welker is playing on a one-year, $9.5 million franchise tender. Since the end of last season, the Patriots have locked up two offensive pieces in Hernandez and tight end Rob Gronkowski, who signed a six-year, $54 million contract extension early in the offseason.
What those deals and his own lack of an extension will mean for Welker remains to be seen. Certainly it will continue to be a story throughout the season. The 31-year-old slot receiver is coming off the best season of his career, hauling in 122 receptions for 1,569 yards and nine touchdowns. He was first in the NFL in receptions, second in receiving yards (behind Calvin Johnson of Detroit) and was targeted more than all but one receiver (Roddy White of Atlanta).
Since joining the Patriots in 2007, Welker has caught more passes than any player in the league. He set an NFL record by reaching 500 receptions with the Patriots in 70 games and ranks second all time for receptions as a Patriot, three behind Troy Brown.
His situation with the Patriots is comparable to that of Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz, who accepted salary arbitration instead of signing the long-term deal he desired.
“I don’t know. I think it’s a little bit different with the sports and everything and how everything kind of comes together,” said Welker. “At the same time, I’m under contract. I played out my last deal. I’ll play out this one and see where we’re at.”
If the Patriots and Welker can’t come to an agreement next offseason, there is a possibility he could be franchised again, but for $11.4 million. And when asked if he could picture himself on another team, he was vague but noted the scenario wasn’t on his mind.
“I’m not worried about that,” Welker said. “I’m just focused on this year and what I have to do. I’m not worried about that at all.”
FOR MANY GIANTS players, this fourth preseason game is their last chance to make an impression and earn a spot on the 53-man roster.
But there also will be a few who will be sitting by watching. Waiting. Hoping.
The Giants have several players who are not expected to suit up against the Patriots on Wednesday night because of injuries, a situation made all the more tenuous by their uncertain futures with the team. They won’t get that shot at punctuating their resume and have to worry they’ve shown enough to survive Friday’s last cuts.
Defensive end Adrian Tracy is one of those players. He had a strong first half of camp but has been sidelined with a hamstring injury since shortly after he took the field against the Jets nearly two weeks ago.
Thomas is comfortable that the Giants will give him the time to recover and get back.
“If not, they would have opted for the surgery because it was like a coin flip,” he said of the decision to forgo a third reconstruction on his knee. “I’m very confident in myself and where I stand with this team, but it’s a business. You see guys get cut left and right.”