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Wes Welker on Bill Belichick comments: ‘It was a joke’

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) shares a fist-bump with Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker (83) after they connected for a touchdown against the Denver Broncos in the first quarter of an NFL football game Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012 in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) shares a fist-bump with Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker (83) after they connected for a touchdown against the Denver Broncos in the first quarter of an NFL football game Sunday, Oct. 7, 2012 in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne) Purchase photo reprints »

FOXBOROUGH — New England Patriots receiver Wes Welker said on Monday that he was only joking when he said that he enjoyed catching 13 passes against the Denver Broncos to “stick it” in coach Bill Belichick’s face.

“It was a joke. I don’t know what else to say about it,” Welker said during a rare Monday appearance in the locker room during media availability. “Bill and I, whether y’all believe it or not, have a good relationship, and it was a joke and I’ll make sure to keep that in-house going forward.”

Welker caught more passes over the past five seasons than any other player in the NFL, leading the team to use the franchise tag on him in the offseason. He accepted the $9.5 million contract that came with it rather than agree to a long-term deal that would have been more salary cap-friendly for the team.

Welker started the season opener but was targeted only five times, with three catches for 14 yards. He did not start the next game, giving way to longtime backup Julian Edelman and prompting speculation that Belichick was punishing him for the unsuccessful negotiations.

But Welker’s production has been as good as ever since the opener, averaging just under nine catches and 118 yards receiving per game. On Sunday, he had 13 receptions for 104 yards and a touchdown.

“Yeah, it’s kind of nice to stick it in Bill’s face once in a while,” he said — with a wink of his right eye — in an interview with Comcast SportsNet.

Asked about the comment in his Monday news conference, Belichick said he hadn’t seen it. When a reporter started to repeat Welker’s comment, Belichick cut him off.

“You should ask him about it, then,” he said. “What he meant by it, I don’t know.”

About 90 minutes later, Welker showed up at his locker; he usually speaks to the media on Fridays.

“You’ve just got to be careful with what you say,” he said. “And Bill does a good job of challenging us and being a great coach and doing the things necessary that he needs to do. I made a joke about it, you know, won’t happen again.”

Asked if Belichick had spoken to him about the joke, Welker said, “Any discussions are between us and the team.

“But he talks to all the players, all the time,” he said. “He’s our coach.”

Welker was benched for the first series of a 2011 playoff game against the Jets after making mocking references to foot-fetish reports involving New York coach Rex Ryan.

Welker said he did not think there would be repercussions this time.

“I don’t think so at all,” he said. “Nope. We’re just concentrating on Seattle this week.”

FAULK TO RETIRE — Kevin Faulk is retiring after 13 seasons with the New England Patriots.

The formal announcement is scheduled for Tuesday. Faulk, who appeared in just nine games the past two seasons, wasn’t active for the Super Bowl in February and hasn’t been with the team since. He missed all but two games in 2010 with a knee injury and began the 2011 season on the physically unable to perform list before playing in seven games.

Faulk spent his entire NFL career with the Patriots, who drafted him in the second round out of LSU in 1999. Primarily a third-down back, he is the Patriots’ leader with 12,349 all-purpose yards, 5,041 return yards and 4,098 kick return yards.

In his 13 seasons, he rushed for 3,607 yards and 16 touchdowns and caught 431 passes for 3,701 yards and 15 touchdowns.

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