HOUSTON -- During Wes Welker's six-year run with the Patriots, Bill Belichick saw in him qualities that would make for a good football coach.
Now that Welker has been hired by the Texans as an assistant to focus on offense and special teams -- reuniting him with former Patriots offensive coordinator and Houston head coach Bill O'Brien -- Belichick thinks one of Tom Brady's all-time favorite targets will handle the gig well.
"Nobody worked harder than Wes," Belichick said Wednesday. "Wes loved football. He was the first one in, last one out type of guy. Very instinctive player. Wes was a great player for us as a receiver but also as a returner and he was actually our backup kicker. He actually kicked in a game against us with the Dolphins when they had an injury in pregame warmups.
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"Wes is a football guy. He is into football. Whatever we asked him to do, block, run routes, return kicks, help us out in any way possible. Wes was a good football player, is a great football mind, works extremely hard and is a very instinctive player. He always seemed to do the right thing whether it was the slowdown, speed up, go under a linebacker, go over him, stop, keep going or pull up. He just had a great feel for where a quarterback wanted to throw him the ball and where he should be in the passing game relative to where other people were."
Belichick hasn't always been so warm toward Welker since Welker signed with the Broncos as a free agent following the 2012 season. Belichick notably criticized the hit Welker put on Aqib Talib in the AFC title game three years ago, forcing New England's top corner from the game with a knee injury.
"It is a deliberate play by the receiver to take out Aqib," Belichick told reporters the day after the loss. "No attempt to get open. And I'll let the league handle the discipline on that play. It's not for me to decide, but it's one of the worst plays I've seen and that's all I'm going to say about that."
Judging by Belichick's glowing remarks on Wednesday, however, it seems as though that's water under the bridge.
"I am sure Coach O’Brien recognized [Welker's intincts] as well from coaching him," Belichick said. "I am sure he will do a great job in whatever they ask him to do. He did a great job for us as a receiver, as a blocker and as a returner."