Welker proves Chargers wrong

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Staff member
Jun 20, 2005
Chula Vista, CA

By Keven Lerner
Posted December 8 2005, 4:23 PM EST

DAVIE -- Wes Welker won't need any extra motivation when playing against the Chargers on Sunday.

The Dolphins wide receiver/returner will face his former team for the first time since being cut by them last season.

"I want to have a good game," said Welker, who has flourished since being signed by the Dolphins last season. "But that goes for every week. I'm treating it like every other game."

Still, the Dolphins special teams captain won't soon forget his release in San Diego.

"I was kind of shocked when that happened," Welker said. "I just hadn't seen that side of the business. I was a rookie. I was like, 'I made the team. I'm on it for the year.' I didn't know they cut people through the year. I didn't know anything. It was shocking for me."

The Chargers were deep at returner at the time with Tim Dwight and Eric Parker and had more pressing needs in the secondary.

"I have great regard for him," said Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer. "I frankly was very disappointed when he ended up leaving, I assure you. He was a terrific player. Everybody knows about his return ability, but if you get out there and watch him practice, he's going full speed all the time. I don't know that I saw him drop a ball -- maybe one the whole time he was here. And I'm not talking about catching punts, but as a receiver. But we had a situation where we had to make a move."

After his release, Welker remained confident he would play in the NFL.

"I was just kind of wondering," said the undrafted receiver from Texas Tech. "I didn't know what was going to happen. I felt like I deserved to make the team in San Diego. That's kind of how it goes sometimes."

Soon after, Welker had received several practice-squad offers, including one from the Chargers.

"It was time to move on," he said. "Miami wanted me to be on their practice squad and it seemed like the best situation. A few days after I got here, they activated me."

Welker has given the Dolphins' long-suffering return game stability since replacing the forgettable Lamont Brightful in Week 3 of 2004. Several returners, including Charlie Rogers, Terrence Wilkins, Sam Simmons, Kendall Newson, Fred Russell and Travis Minor, also didn't pan out prior to Welker's arrival.

"In the end it worked out for the best," said Welker.

His teammates couldn't agree more.

"I love that guy," said tight end Randy McMichael. "Wes is that unsung hero. He doesn't get all the clippings that some of the guys get, but he does all the little things that you need to win games. He's just such a valuable player to us on offense and special teams. I just love having him as a teammate. It's just a joy to watch him play because his energy level is always up, even in practice and walk-throughs."

Said wide receiver Chris Chambers: "For a young guy, he shows a lot of fire and leadership. He's a vocal and emotional leader, and guys respond to him. I'm really not the emotional rah-rah guy like Randy and Wes. They are our emotional leaders on offense. Wes has a lot of savvy for just being in his second year. He helps us in so many ways. Every team should have a guy like Wes Welker."

Welker, who ended the team's 15-year drought without a kickoff return for a touchdown last season, is fifth in the NFL in punt-return average (9.5 yards). He also has shown he is more than just a quality returner by assuming the role as the team's third receiver.

Welker has six catches of 20-plus yards and his statistics (26 catches for 395 yards) are comparable to No. 2 receiver Marty Booker's (24-407) despite playing fewer snaps.

Coach Nick Saban said earlier this season that the 5-foot-9, 185-pound Welker is, "pound for pound, probably, as good as a competitor as I have ever been around."

Welker showed his toughness in a Nov. 6 loss to Atlanta. Tempers flared on the sideline in the fourth quarter when Welker and 320-pound offensive lineman Damion McIntosh got into a heated exchange that resulted in a head-butt to the diminutive receiver.

"There's so many little guys in the NFL that do their thing," said McMichael. "Wes plays so much bigger than his size. You just love to have a guy like that on your team."