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Wes Welker's decreased role with Patriots a mystery

Wes Welker isn't sure why his role has changed with the New England Patriots. He knows better than to publicly state his displeasure.

Welker's strange season took another left turn Sunday, when he found himself on the bench behind Julian Edelman to start Sunday's 20-18 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. It took Aaron Hernandez's first-quarter ankle injury to get Welker into the mix.

Welker's first catch didn't come until late in the second quarter, breaking Troy Brown's team mark for receptions (558). Welker finished with five catches for 95 yards. He played 63 snaps, 12 less than Edelman.

Welker lined up for 89 percent of the Patriots' snaps last season. He was on the field for 65 percent of snaps in Week 1 and 76 percent of snaps in Week 2.

"You know, you want to be out there, I think, as a competitor and everything else," Welker said, via "Especially on Sundays, it's what we play for and what we work for and you want to be out there.

"At the same time, (coach Bill Belichick) felt like whatever was best for the team, and I'm for that. And I totally understand that, and I'm just there to help out however I can."

It's possible Welker's playing time eventually will revert to the levels of last season, but it's fair to wonder how we got here in the first place. It surely isn't about production -- Welker is coming off a season in which he piled up 122 catches for 1,569 yards.

Brady targeted Welker a team-high 11 times Sunday, proof the wide receiver still a) gets open and b) has his quarterback's trust. Welker seems like the same player. It's his role that has mysteriously changed.

Follow Dan Hanzus on Twitter @danhanzus.

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