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Sports

December 30, 2008

Welker was Patriots '08 MVP

He has taken over as poster boy for franchise

Bill Burt

Of all the impressive stats that New England Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker methodically gathered by the official end of his season at 3:46 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, and there are a litany of them, one sticks out:

Twelve.

That's the number of catches he made, 10 of which were near the middle of the field, the game after "the hit."

You remember "the hit," don't you?

It was the end of the third quarter on Nov. 30. That was when Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark dove directly at the upper chest area of Welker, who had slowed down and turned his head as the tipped ball hit the ground.

Henry, though, didn't stop. He finished his upwards dive and Welker went down hard, lying on his back for about a half-minute, appearing to be in "concussion" mode.

While Clark was flagged for 15 yards, for "unnecessary roughness" after leaving his feet to make an upper body hit. The hit was "legal." But that is not be confused with being "clean." It was a classic cheap shot.

At first glance, it appeared Welker would fall into line, behind Tom Brady, Adalius Thomas, Laurence Maroney and Rodney Harrison, as other key performers gone for a long, long time.

In fact, my first thought was Darryl Stingley, who was paralyzed after taking a shot to the head from ex-Raider Jack Tatum during an exhibition game in 1978.

But Welker was moving his extremities, every so slightly. He got up after the cheap shot and walked gingerly to the sideline.

He never finished the game, which ended up being a blowout. But impressively, he was the only person with a touch of Patriots blood in them who didn't complain about the cheap shot. In fact, he said he had no issues with Clark.

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