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History on tap, Patriots WR Welker set for Texans

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History on tap, Patriots WR Welker set for Texans

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) Jerry Rice never did it. Neither did Marvin Harrison. On Monday night, Wes Welker takes his swing for it.

Just eight more catches and the New England Patriots standout receiver will achieve another of his many milestones that he insists he doesn't dwell on.

He'll break a tie with those retired stars and become the first player with 100 receptions in five different seasons.

Is he looking forward to it? Is he excited for it? Does he even care?

``Maybe when I'm done playing,'' Welker said Friday. ``But right now, I'm just focused on however many catches I need to get to help us win.''

Welker has a decent chance to make those eight grabs on Monday night when the New England Patriots (9-3) face the Houston Texans (11-1) in a marquee AFC matchup.

After all, he's averaging 7.3 receptions per game in his six seasons since being traded from Miami, and he traditionally comes up big in key games.

He could add that mark to a long list of accomplishments on Monday:

- Welker is tied with Rice in NFL history with 17 games of at least 10 catches.

- Welker is on pace to break a tie with Cris Carter as the only player to catch 120 passes in a season twice.

- Welker has the most receptions in the past six seasons (646), by a large margin over Brandon Marshall (565).

And what really matters is this. The Patriots have won six in a row and they are already AFC East champions as they welcome the conference's top team.

``There's nothing more important in Wes's life than being a football player and thinking about football and making the big play and running the right route and getting open when it's most important,'' quarterback Tom Brady said. ``That's what quarterbacks dream about.''

Grabbing 100 passes seemed far from certain early in the season. Getting on the field, in fact, was a bigger issue.

Welker took part in just 70.5 percent of the offensive snaps in the first two games after participating in 88.9 percent of them during the 2011 regular season. Julian Edelman even started in his place in the second game.

``It's a long season so you just keep on battling, keep on working hard,'' Welker said Friday. ``That doesn't change, even now.''

Coach Bill Belichick never explained his reasoning, and Welker said he felt ``fine'' physically.

In the season opener against Tennessee, Welker sat out 25 of the 67 offensive snaps. But in the past four games, he missed a total of just 23 plays.

And in Sunday's 23-16 win over Miami, he had 12 catches for 103 yards, and was thrown to 18 times.

Now, he has an NFL-high 92 snares - one more than Marshall - and is seventh with 1,064 yards receiving.

And because of injuries - Edelman is out for the season with a foot injury suffered last Sunday, and tight end Rob Gronkowski is likely to miss his third straight game with a broken forearm - Brady could be looking for Welker even more than usual.

``There's pressure on everybody,'' Welker said. ``Everybody's got to step up.''

He prefers not to look back at the knee injury he suffered at Houston in the last game of the 2009 season that forced him to miss the playoffs. It's all about moving forward for Welker.

After all, that is the New England way.

``I'm really trying not to think about it too much. (I) appreciate you bringing that up,'' Welker said with a grin. ``I've just moved on from it and just worked hard and tried to get better.

``And, luckily, I'm where I'm at today.''

He also won't look ahead to where he might be next season, once his $9.5 million, one-year deal that came with his franchise tag expires. There will be a time to think about contracts. This weekend is not that time.

``I'm not worried about a contract at all,'' he said.

And when he says that, you get the sense that he means it. His statistics might not be this good otherwise.

In fact, special teams captain and wide receiver Matthew Slater has admired Welker's ``professionalism'' in the five years they've been teammates.

``A guy like that who's been able to accomplish all that he has here, he never loses his sense of urgency. He never loses the respect that you have to have for this game,'' Slater said. ``It would be easy for a guy like that to take a couple of days off or not practice as hard here and there, but he doesn't.''

That can motivate his teammates, of course. Yet another trait synonymous with the Patriots.

``If you see a guy who's caught 100 balls every year working harder than everybody else, you definitely better be working as hard as you can,'' Slater said. ``There's no room for slacking.''

So, as expected, Welker is preparing diligently to face the Texans and a secondary that's banged up. Cornerback Johnathan Joseph was limited in practice Friday after missing the past two games with a hamstring injury and Houston coach Gary Kubiak said a decision on whether he'll play will be made in the next couple of days.

Joseph said he expects to play. But nickel cornerback Brice McCain had surgery on his left foot on Monday and Alan Ball missed the previous game with a sore foot.

``You don't have as much film'' on players who will fill in, Welker said. ``But you can still study the games that they are in there, and really try and get an edge.''

Welker usually does.

As a slot receiver, he catches passes at the line of scrimmage as well as quick slants, then does a good job running after the catch.

He also can take advantage of certain defensive formations and break down the field. And he makes key contributions even when the ball is thrown to someone else. He doesn't give up on plays.

That's not likely the change.

``He busts his butt harder than anybody to make sure he's doing his job to clear out on a certain route or to take some coverage with him so another guy can get the ball,'' Brady said. ``I think that's what makes Wes really special, is his selflessness as a player.

``But the ball always seems to find a way to him.''

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Is Adrian Peterson a good fit with the Redskins?

Is Adrian Peterson a good fit with the Redskins?

Adrian Peterson is one of the best running backs in NFL history.

But is he the best running back for the Redskins right now?

The Redskins signed Peterson, 33 years old and a 12-year NFL veteran, to a one-year contract. They have been hit with injuries at the running back position, most notably the loss of second-round pick Derrius Guice for the season with a torn ACL. They didn’t make any moves when that diagnosis was announced a week and a half ago. But they lost two more backs to short-term injuries last Thursday and they decided that now is the time to go out and get somebody.

Is the need for a running back really there? Rob Kelley was the starter for the last half of the 2016 season and for seven games last year before a variety of ailments sent him to injured reserve. Samaje Perine became the starter after that and while he struggled at time he also showed growth potential.

Kelley is 25 and Perine is 22. In the absence of Guice, they could develop and when Guice returns next year the team would have a good stable of young running backs.

But now, Peterson is in the picture. We don’t yet know what his role will be, but they did not sign him to be the back who is inactive on game days. He will get some carries and that will take work away from Perine and Kelley.

Now, if Peterson is more productive than either of the two younger backs then that is a worthwhile swap. But what does he have left in the tank at age 33?

Last year, playing for the Saints and Cardinals he gained 529 yards on 156 carries, a very pedestrian average of 3.4 years per carry. That is very similar to the production of Perine, who had 175 carries for 603 yards, a 3.4 average. In his two years in the NFL, Kelley has averaged 3.9 yards per carry.

By signing Peterson, however, the Redskins are hoping that Peterson has one more big year, or at least a medium year by his standards, left in him. After all, it was just in 2015 that he led the NFL in rushing for the third time in his career as he ran for 1,485 yards and averaged 4.5 yards per carry. The Redskins would be delighted if he could get half of that total.

Any free agent signing can only be evaluated when the contract details are available. We only know that it’s a one-year deal and according to some reports he did not get any money guaranteed at signing. That seems to be a team friendly deal, but we will have to see what might kick in if he is on the Week 1 roster.

As with everything else, time will tell if this move works out. If the money is right, it’s a low risk transaction with some possible upside for Washington.

Back during minicamp while talking about how quickly Alex Smith would have to get up to speed with the offense, Jay Gruden said that the Redskins are not in a rebuilding mode and that they need to win now. After the trade for Smith, the Peterson signing is another indication that patience may be wearing thin.

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Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS and on Instagram @RichTandler

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Former MVP Adrian Peterson signing with Redskins amid mounting RB injuries

Former MVP Adrian Peterson signing with Redskins amid mounting RB injuries


The Redskins agreed to terms with free agent running back Adrian Peterson, per multiple reports and confirmed by NBC Sports Washington.

Washington added Peterson as their running back group took a number of hits this preseason. Rookie Derrius Guice was lost for the year in the preseason opener, while Byron Marshall, Martez Carter and Samaje Perine got hurt in the second preseason game against the Jets.

Peterson is a huge name. He’s likely headed for the Hall of Fame when his career ends, and he’s one of only a handful of rushers to gain more than 2,000 yards in a season.

His best seasons came with the Vikings, but Peterson hasn’t delivered top flight results since 2015.

If he’s healthy and ready to go, Peterson could be a tremendous steal for the Redskins. There is no way to know until he suits up in the preseason, which could happen as soon as this Friday night against Denver.

On the roster, Washington has Rob Kelley, Kapri Bibbs and Chris Thompson available at running back. At his best, Peterson is significantly better than that group.

Will the Redskins get Peterson at his best?

That’s the big question. And with two preseason games remaining, he will get the chance to prove it.

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