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.