By Cedric Williams
There’s no doubt that the news on Monday that veteran NFL wide receiver Wes Welker had joined the St. Louis Rams was a bit of a surprise.
Head coach Jeff Fisher had already begun his weekly Monday press conference at the Rams Park Training Facility in Earth City before almost anyone even knew signing Welker was a possibility.
The Rams had just gotten news from the league earlier that morning that third-year player Stedman Bailey had been suspended for four games for violating the league’s policy against substance abuse, and that made some wonder who the club might go after to replace him. Welker was one of several veteran receivers who hadn’t found a team this season, so there was only speculation about who Bailey’s replacement might be.
It wasn’t until later in the afternoon, during Fisher’s press conference – and while he was in the middle of answering a question about Welker – that even the coach got the word that the former New England Patriot, Miami Dolphin, and Denver Bronco was officially joining the Rams.
“We’ll see. We’re close, but I don’t know. It may work out, it may not. But, I know we’re close,” is how Fisher began his answer to one media member’s question about Welker. Then a member of the front office stepped into the room, gave Fisher an OK sign, and that was how the coach found out that Welker was now on his team. “I just got a thumbs up that the deal’s done. Wes will be part of our football team.”
Now it’s more than 48 hours later. And though questions about Welker’s health and past issues with concussions remain, the main question being asked around Rams Park is can he be ready to play by Sunday, when the Rams will host the Chicago Bears at the Edward Jones Dome.
“He did well,” Fisher said on Tuesday. “He’s in great shape and he’s moving around good. Man, he’s been here for 24 hours now. He’s been in the building all day today and learning as much offense as he can. So, we talked yesterday about gosh if we can get a package together and get you to a point where we can get you on the field, we will. If not, we’ll wait a week. So, we’ll just kind of wait and see.”
Not only was Welker in the building trying to learn as much of the St. Louis offense as he could during the day on Tuesday, but he stayed late Tuesday night and did it again on Wednesday. The Rams probably won’t know for sure until later in the week if he’ll be up to speed enough to actually go out on the field and play, but Welker left no doubt when he spoke with the media, that he intends to do all he can to be ready to play on Sunday.
“Obviously, terminology is a little bit different, but there’s a lot of similarities to some things that I’ve done in the past and really just trying to get on the same page of how the coaches want me to do it here and everything like that,” Welker said. “They’ve done a great job of really kind of catching me up and really getting me on the right page with (quarterback) Nick (Foles). Nick’s been a big help as well as far as getting on the same page with him and getting to know the offense.”
Welker also talked about how the Rams offense isn’t particularly complicated, but that it does require extra work to try to learn it so quickly – especially in the middle of the season.
“Oh, absolutely,” Welker said. “You come in half way into the season, you have to spend the extra time and prepare the way you need to prepare to be ready to go.”
Thursday is the Ram players’ regular day off. But the belief is Welker, Foles, and probably several other Ram receivers will probably be in to get more extra work together. Fisher even talked about possibly adding a specific package of plays just for Welker, just so the Rams can get him on the field on Sunday.
“I have no idea about (if he’ll get to play Sunday),” Welker said. “I still have a long ways to go and a lot of work to do and a lot of studying to do. We’ll see what Coach Fisher thinks at the end of the week.”
Cedric Williams, a lifelong St. Louisan and proud UMSL alum, has been a full-time reporter/photographer covering St. Louis area sports for nearly two decades. Most recently, he has been working as a credentialed beat writer covering the NFL, as well as college and high school sports for the St. Louis American, Patch.com, and other outlets from around the area. Please share any comments, questions, or feedback with Cedric at firstname.lastname@example.org. His work can be found on Examiner.com.