JERSEY CITY, N.J. — Wes Welker went to the Knickerbocker game Tuesday night in Madison Square Garden. Even was shown on the video screen.
And the goofball sitting behind him mimicked trying to catch the ball, then put his hands on his throat. Choker, he was saying.
Welcome to New York.
But on the other hand, welcome to New Jersey, which is where Welker finds himself Sunday night, back in the Super Bowl, this time with the Denver Broncos.
The last time Welker was in the biggest of all games, he left as the goat. Welker's dropped pass gave the Giants a sliver of hope and they pounced, rallying for a 21-17 victory over Welker's Patriots.
And back on the big stage, Welker deftly sidesteps talk of the Super Bowl two years ago.
“You know what? I don't even think about it,” Welker said. “The past is the past, what happened happened, and I'm just looking forward to this one.”
The dropped pass explains why some Patriot fans now hate Welker, who once was among their favorite players.
But why does Bill Belichick hate Wes Welker? Nobody's quite sure. Is Belichick still sore about the now two-year-old play?
The pass that Tom Brady should have or could have thrown better, that should have or could have been caught, that should have or could have given New England victory.
Lots of should'ves and could'ves, reduced to a singular concept. Welker dropped the ball and the Patriots lost.
“I don't worry about the last Super Bowl,” Welker said. “I moved on to this one. Looking forward to the opportunity we have ahead of us.
“The only thing I have to prove is to myself and going out there and just playing the best game I can.”
But Belichick has not moved on. If not from Super Bowl 46, then from Welker leaving the Patriots last off-season for Denver. Welker left the franchise and coach who made him a star, and Belichick seems unforgiving.
On Jan. 19, the Broncos punched their Super Bowl ticket at the Patriots' expense, and the next day the usually catatonic Belichick talked more nonsense than did Richard Sherman.
At least what Sherman said was true. He is the NFL's best cornerback. What Belichick said the morning after the AFC title game was not, that Welker's collision with Patriot cornerback Aqib Talib, knocking Talib out of the game, was a dirty play.
From all corners, the league came to Welker's defense. Mike Pereira, former head of NFL officiating, said that not only was the play not dirty, it was legal. A simple rub play in which receivers cross. Welker collided with Talib, who suffered what was reported to be a rib injury but instead was a knee injury.
The Patriots had little chance of covering Peyton Manning's many receivers without their best cornerback, and Denver won 26-16.
Welker said it's a simple play that everyone runs. Including New England.
“One of those deals where you try to get a rub on that guy,” Welker said. “If you can get him to go over the top of you, the more separation the other receiver will have. That's what I was trying to do. Try to get Demaryius (Thomas) a little more open.”
Welker had four catches for 38 yards in that game. In the regular season, Welker had 73 catches for 10 touchdowns. That's the most TDs he's ever scored, not counting Texas Tech and Heritage Hall days, but it's far under his normal catches as a Patriot. Welker five times had at least 111 catches for Belichick.
Welker said he “didn't really think anything about” Belichick's comment. “I was just excited we won the game.”
Was he surprised at Belichick's charge? “I don't really have any comment on that.”
Why does Belichick hate him? “I don't know if he does. That's a question for him.”
Has he talked with Belichick? “No. I'm just focused on this game. Getting ready for the Super Bowl.”
If Welker can deflect the memories of Super Bowl 46 as well as questions about Belichick, things should be fine Sunday night.
To review, Welker broke free deep late in the game against the Giants. Brady's throw was off target, forcing Welker to turn his body while trying to make the catch. He dropped the ball.
Make that catch, and the Patriots would have been at the Giant 20-yard line with four minutes left, leading 17-15. Instead, New England punted, the Giants stormed 88 yards and won 21-17.
Those kind of plays are hard to erase from memory. Welker's teammate, cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, was beaten for the Super Bowl-winning touchdown pass by Santonio Holmes five seasons ago.
Rodgers-Cromartie said he still thinks about the play: “Not to the point where it beats me up, but just to the point that we were that close to getting a ring. I do tend to think about it a lot.
“Anytime the Super Bowl comes back around, they tend to show that play. You sit there, look at it and think, ‘I was almost there.' You can't dwell on it.”
Now Rodgers-Cromartie has a chance at redemption. So does the receiver that Bill Belichick loves to hate.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.