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Welker's joke falls flat

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Dan Parr

dparr@pfwmedia.com
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Posted April 25, 2011 @ 4:25 p.m. ET
By Dan Parr

Whether it's jabbing Rex Ryan by making many foot-related references in a press conference or putting his own personal touch on a Halloween costume, Patriots WR Wes Welker has made it pretty clear that he fancies himself a jokester.

He missed the mark in his latest attempt at humor, however.

Welker, who was interviewed by the Associated Press at a free football camp he puts on every year for at-risk youth in Oklahoma City, was asked about the NFL lockout, now into its 45th day.

"It's awesome because I'm on my own schedule," Welker told the AP. "I don't have to talk to anybody; I don't have to see anybody. You see some of the same faces all the time. It's kind of nice not to have to look at them anymore and see them. I'm kind of enjoying it.

"I like being able to train on my own and be able to do some of my things. It's good to be with the team, but it's kind of nice."

Glad to see that Welker is making the most of it. Some other people, including all NFL employees — not just the ones at the top of the salary scale — who have had their pay slashed by 12 percent, are probably finding the lockout to be less of a joy. The pay cuts will grow the longer the lockout lingers, and some team employees, including assistant coaches, also have had their pay reduced since the lockout started.

The sense that this feud between the players and owners already has caused serious pain for some and that it will pull the financial rug out from more and more people who rely on the league as it drags on didn't seem to dawn on Welker when he then joked, "Let's do a lockout every year."

When you've seen people affected and hear others discuss the concern they have about their job security if a lockout stretches deep into the summer, that statement draws more disappointment, and perhaps even anger, than laughter. It's another person reminding us that the parties involved in this labor dispute live far different, and much more financially secure, lives than the rest of us. It was a bit surprising to have it come from Welker, who seemed grounded in reality in January when, after a very respectable season, he called his performance in 2010 disappointing and said he didn't deserve a contract extension.

That was refreshing. This latest comments on the lockout were not.

Welker knows that until players start to feel the effects of the lockout in their pockets — for many of them that won't be until September, when games are scheduled to begin and players are due to start collecting game checks again — there probably won't be widespread outrage from the guys who play the game.

"I think once people start losing paychecks, it'll probably be a little bit different. But I'm not too concerned right now," Welker, who is due a base salary of $2.15 million, said. "Hopefully at some point we get a deal done.

"I just know as players — I can speak for myself — I just want to play ball. Hopefully come fall, that's what we're doing."

That wait could be pretty devastating for some people, Welker and his highly compensated colleagues aside.

I would've rather heard this from Welker on the lockout: Let's get this thing over with as soon as possible and hope that it never gets to this point again because it's ridiculous and puts a lot people in jeopardy.

It wouldn't have received any laughs, but it would have deserved applause.

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