Pats’ Welker enjoying freedom of NFL lockout

New England Patriots receiver Wes Welker isn’t too concerned

about the NFL lockout at this point.

He’s making the most of his down time, spending some of Saturday

with about 180 kids who attended the free football camp he holds

every year in Oklahoma City.

Welker tossed a few passes to the participants, threw in a few

tips during receiving drills and lined up on defense during the 3

1/2-hour camp at Douglass High School.

”You’ve got to get into it a little bit,” Welker said. ”I get

bored easily. So, for me, I’ve got to get active and D one of these

kids up or catch a pass for ’em, throw to ’em or whatever.

”We have fun with it.”

With more than four months to go before the season would start,

Welker is comfortable for now catching passes off a machine in

Oklahoma City and going through his own weekly workout routine.

”It’s awesome because I’m on my own schedule,” said Welker,

who led the NFL with 123 receptions in 2009. ”I don’t have to talk

to anybody; I don’t have to see anybody. You see some of the same

faces all the time. It’s kind of nice not to have to look at them

anymore and see them. I’m kind of enjoying it.

”I like being able to train on my own and be able to do some of

my things. It’s good to be with the team, but it’s kind of

nice.”

Welker said he hadn’t heard of any plans for Patriots players to

get together for informal offseason work. Some Browns and Bengals

have planned practice sessions, set up by their young

quarterbacks.

”For the younger guys, I think it’s a big thing to try and do

that. We haven’t really put anything together yet,” Welker

said.

He’s glad to be healthy this offseason instead of rehabbing from

two torn ligaments in his knee like last year.

The freedom provided by the NFL’s labor dispute even had Welker

joking, ”Let’s do a lockout every year.”

”I think once people start losing paychecks, it’ll probably be

a little bit different. But I’m not too concerned right now,”

Welker said. ”Hopefully at some point we get a deal done.

”I just know as players – I can speak for myself – I just want

to play ball. Hopefully come fall, that’s what we’re doing.”

He’s also turning attention to helping out those in need in his

hometown. A fundraiser last month raised more than $300,000, which

will be spent pursuing his foundation’s mission to help at-risk

children through athletics and positive role models.

Douglass High School, the host of the camp this year, has twice

received grants from Welker’s foundation. The first was used to

upgrade decades-old weight room equipment, and the second provided

video technology intended to help get students recruited by

Division I schools.

”We had a lot of kids actually getting noticed this year that

probably would not have,” Douglass coach Willis Alexander

said.

Douglass also won the Class 4A championship last season, its

first state title since 1976, and several of Alexander’s assistant

coaches volunteered their time to help Welker’s camp.

”We use football to help educate these kids, to let them grasp

hold of something positive,” Alexander said. ”The sport of

football actually goes hand in hand with helping you prepare for

life because it gives you all the life situations in a football

game.

”The toughest, biggest game of all is the game of life.”

Following the camp, Welker now shifts into figuring out how to

divide the money from the foundation’s most successful fundraiser

yet by sifting through grant applications that can be submitted

online.

”The ones that the board and everybody feels is worthy of those

grants, we’re going to spread that money around and hopefully do

some good around the Oklahoma City area,” Welker said.

”Hopefully, at some point, we’ll do new fields and things like

that and have our own setup. But that’s on down the road.

”We’re getting there, it’s growing and that’s all we could ask

for right now.”

Online:

Wes Welker Foundation: http://www.weswelkerfoundation.org