New England Patriots: Why Has Wes Welker Fallen out of Favor?

Kyle CormierContributor IIISeptember 19, 2012

FOXBORO, PA - SEPTEMBER 16: Wes Welker #83 of the New England Patriots dives to the ground after catching a pass against the Arizona Cardinals during the game on September 16, 2012 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Two weeks into the New England Patriots' season, one thing has become strikingly evident: Wes Welker's role in the offense has been greatly reduced.

The question everyone is trying to answer is why.

In Welker, we are talking about a player who just set the franchise's all-time record for receptions and is coming off of a 122-catch, All-Pro season. Following the season, the Patriots thought so much of Welker that they smacked the franchise tag on him to retain his rights for one season at a generous $9.5 million.

Do these sound like descriptions of a player who should be sitting on the bench while Julian Edelman, who had just 48 receptions in three NFL seasons entering the year, takes the field in his place?

At this point it is seems likely that Welker is being punished quietly by the Patriots, for what, who is to say.

It would not be the first time Welker has been disciplined by coach Bill Belichick. During the Patriots divisional round game vs. the New York Jets after the 2010 season, Welker was benched in favor of Edelman for making remarks about Jets' head coach Rex Ryan

When asked in his postgame press conference Sunday if his lack of playing time surprised him, Welker side-stepped the question.

You know, you want to be out there, I think as a competitor and everything else, especially on Sundays, it's what we play for and what we work for and you want to be out there. At the same time, Coach felt like whatever was best for the team and I'm for that and I totally understand that and I'm just there to help out however I can.

If Welker is facing some sort of punishment, he is clearly handling it the right way and saying the right things to avoid starting any controversy. Whatever the case has been with him, he will need to again become a vital member of the Patriots' aerial attack for the foreseeable future without Pro Bowl tight end Aaron Hernandez.