Following up on an item in this week's Team Notes. ... According to CBSSports.com's Mike Freeman, a Patriots team source was asked a simple question: What's going on with Wes Welker?
According to Freeman, the response sounded almost indignant, even angry.
"All of this about Wes just isn't true," the official said. "He isn't being phased out. He isn't being phased out. He's not being punished. All of this speculation is just wrong. It's flat-out wrong."
The official added: "Think about how obvious it would be to phase out Wes Welker."
Freeman believes the official. Freeman doesn't think Welker is being phased out (and he's hearing Welker has been told this directly by someone on the team).
Still, it's hard to argue with anyone who believes he is -- especially Fantasy owners who drafted Welker expecting him to pick right up where he left off last season.
Welker went through a contract fight with the team this summer, he didn't start last week and Julian Edelman is gobbling up his targets.
But the reasons for Welker's decline seem tied more to simple personnel and formation issues.
As the Boston Globe explained it: "The most irrefutable evidence about the Patriots' plans for Welker came in the '12' personnel of one back, two tight ends, and two receivers. As long as [Rob] Gronkowski and [Aaron] Hernandez are healthy, this is the Patriots' base personnel grouping. The Patriots played 15 snaps of '12' personnel. Edelman played 13 of them as the No. 2 receiver. Welker played two. It used to be the other way around. The four other plays Edelman came off the field for had two-back, two-tight end sets."
What might be happening here -- and the Globe alluded to it -- is that the Patriots aren't phasing Welker out. They are preparing to trade him.
Several league sources have told Freeman this is more than some remote possibility. This might actually be a probability and the team is seeing if Edelman could fit into Welker's shoes should the team trade him.
As Freeman summed up: "This is more the Patriots Way than a phasing out. A sort of stashing of Welker -- and by trading Welker, they would have total control of his destination city. The Patriots traded Randy Moss, and trading Welker before the Oct. 30 deadline would be very Bill Belichick.
"So I believe the New England official that the Patriots aren't phasing Welker out.
"But that doesn't mean they aren't considering trading him. ..."
Other notes of interest. ... The Patriots signed tight end Kellen Winslow and re-signed wide receiver Deion Branch to add depth to a pass-catching group that lost Hernandez to a right ankle injury.
The Patriots have not said how many games they expect him to miss, but they are clearly covering their bases.
'I just met Kellen (Tuesday) for the first time, so I'm excited to get out there and practice with him,' Tom Brady said Wednesday. 'Aaron has been a huge contributor for us and every time he's in there, he seems to be making plays. We'll see how it goes without him or with him, I don't know. It's just a matter of him feeling well enough to go out there and play.'
'We'll see how Kellen fits in,' Belichick said before Wednesday's practice. 'I've never coached him before, don't have any background with him, but (we) feel like he might have a chance to help us so that's why he's here.
The Patriots released Branch on the final roster cutdown after he caught 51 passes last season but kept his nameplate above his locker and his possessions inside it. He is confident he'll fit right back into the offense.
'That's the goal and I'm sure the coaches are expecting it out of me and that's what I'm going to deliver,' he said. 'There's a couple of new plays. It shouldn't take long. It'll take a day or so. I'll be all right. ..."
A few final notes here. ... Shane Vereen (foot) and Brandon Lloyd (thigh) were both limited in Wednesday's practice. At this point, there's no reason to believe Lloyd won't be ready to go come Sunday, but I'll be following up throughout the week.