Brady: Patriots will have to evolve without Welker

No official word has come out of Foxborough, Mass., on the extent of Patriots WR Wes Welker’s left knee injury, but no reports are suggesting that he’ll be back this season.

NFL Network insider Michael Lombardi reported that the fear was torn anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments, and Jason La Canfora said initial tests revealed damage to both ligaments and that the injury likely is season-ending.

The reaction from many of the Patriots only confirms the worst, as well as the expectation that Welker won’t be back.

While Welker was scheduled for a Monday MRI that should clarify the severity of the injury, Patriots QB Tom Brady, also resigned to the new reality, gave some insight into the loss of his top receiver.

“You can’t replace him, there’s no doubt about that,” Brady told The Dennis & Callahan Show on Boston’s WEEI AM. “He’s one of those guys that there’s nobody who can substitute in for Wes and think that they’re going to be Wes. He’s everything you ask for. He’s just an incredible player and leader, and I think that as football goes, it’s kind of the way that it works, unfortunately. We’ve got to move on.”

Welker, whose career-high and league-leading 123 receptions accounted for 33.2 percent of Brady’s completions this season, clearly is a focus of the Patriots’ passing game. Trying to put a positive spin on the big injury, Brady suggested a Welker-less offense could pose problems for the Ravens in their AFC wild-card game Sunday.

“We’re going to evolve a little bit as an offense now,” Brady said. “It was a very Wes Welker-oriented offense. And now, maybe part of the advantage is Baltimore doesn’t really know what they’re going to see from us now. We’re going to have to shift focus, and they’re really not sure where that focus is going to go. In some ways, that’s an advantage for us.”

As for the published reports that he has been playing with broken ribs and a broken finger on his throwing hand, Brady went into Bill Belichick-mode to decline comment, but he didn’t discount the reports, either.

“What’s the injury report say?” Brady joked. “I’m feeling really good now. Everyone breaks bones over the course of the years. It’s the best I’ve felt in awhile.”

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