Of the many things that put Wes Welker among the best slot receivers in the game, the biggest has to be his ability to pop up after big hits and play through injuries.
The resilience is vital for any receiver, especially an undersized one like Welker, who has to take the fiercest hits over the middle from much bigger players if he wants a chance to produce.
Welker has been able to show his toughness even more this week as he continues to muscle through an ankle injury. His teammates have noticed.
“The dude is one of the toughest dudes I’ve seen,” tight end Rob Gronkowski said, according to Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald. “For his size, his body weight, what he does — he has no fear in him. He’s willing to take any kind of shot to make a catch and put his body in the way for the team.
“He’s a great player, a lot of toughness, and he’s a great team player because what he’s doing with his size, to put his body in the way to help out the team, is unbelievable.”
Welker has been dealing with ankle pain all season, but it got worse this week after a tackle by Bills safety Jairus Byrd in Sunday’s game. Welker practiced this week and seemed optimistic that he would be on the field against the Colts on Sunday afternoon, even as he was listed on the injury report as questionable.
Running back Stevan Ridley, in his second year with the team, has also noticed Welker’s approach.
“Wes is one of the best in the game at what he does,” Ridley said. “He’s been taking a beating for a few years, and he continues to do those things. That’s what you need in a leader.”
It’s perhaps even more impressive to those who have been roughed up, albeit not by those twice their size. For Gronkowski, who is 6-foot-6 and 265 pounds and has also dealt with ankle issues, seeing 5-foot-9, 185-pound Welker take the hits is a call to action.
“You see a guy like that going in and getting dirty against guys 100 pounds and heavier than him, it gets you amped up and gets you going, too, thinking I should be the guy doing that, too,” Gronkowski said.
Welker is expected to be a game-time decision against the Colts this week.