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Patriots' Welker wants financial security, not franchise tag

NEW YORK -- Two years ago, New England Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker worked fervently to get to training camp after having reconstructive knee surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

This year, the question of if he gets all that work in with his teammates is tied to something different -- his contract. And he said Tuesday he's not sure if he'll report to the team's offseason program, which kicks off April 16.

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"I don't know," Welker said at the NFL-Nike uniform rollout in New York. "I'm not quite sure yet. We'll have to wait and see how things go. But to tell you the truth, I really haven't made up my mind yet."

In March, Welker received the Patriots' franchise tag, which will be worth about $9.4 million. That number is about half of what Welker, who turns 31 in less than a month, earned in total from the five-year deal he signed with the team in 2007. Since then, the eight-year pro has led the NFL in catches.

Welker said he'd like to remain focused on producing, though he conceded that can only happen after his contractual situation is resolved.

"I think the main thing is, I just want to focus on football and not have to worry about anything else," Welker said. "That's the hardest part. You're trying not to be a distraction for the team, but at the same time, it's a distraction for yourself. And you just want to be able to move on, and play football."

Welker did acknowledge that the torn ACL he suffered during the 2009 regular-season finale, and the subsequent rehab he endured, has affected his approach to his current situation. If nothing else, it showed the 5-foot-8 All-Pro -- who is coming off a 122-catch, 1,569-yard, nine-touchdown season -- how quickly things can change.

"It has a pretty big effect (on my outlook), because you don't know what's going to happen," Welker said. "Every day, every time you're out there on the field, one misstep and you never know, everything you've worked for (could be) gone. It's a risk that you take and a risk I took all last season. At least this time, it'll be at a little higher pay."

In any case, Welker hopes he can find his way back on the field soon, and do so with a deal that will set him up financially for life.

"Yeah, sure," he said. "I think that's what every player looks for, as far as playing. The risk you put out there on the field, you never know what's going to happen out there. I don't think anybody knows that better than me. You definitely want that security, and want to be able to have that security and just play."

Follow Albert Breer on Twitter @AlbertBreer.

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