The identity of this week's opponent isn't lost on Wes Welker. But now isn't the time for nostalgia, he said.
The Broncos receiver would rather not get caught up in the football world's fixation on the Peyton Manning-Tom Brady rivalry. Nor does he care to focus on the twist of fate that brought him to this very moment: needing to defeat his former team to reach the Super Bowl.
Welker, who signed a free-agent deal with the Broncos last offseason after spending six years with the Patriots, would rather focus on the here and now. And winning Sunday, regardless of the opponent, is all that matters.
He was careful Wednesday not to draw comparisons between Manning and Brady, his quarterback for six years. He also steered clear of discussing the differing coaching styles between John Fox and Bill Belichick, who didn't take kindly to the receiver's occasional off-the-cuff manner in the media.
But the Patriots' decision to extend an incentive-laden contract to Welker last offseason, and the Broncos' subsequent two-year, $12-million offer, has set the stage for an epic offensive showdown -- and, possibly, the greatest I-told-you-so moment of Welker's career.
But Welker, who returned for last week's divisional playoff win over the Chargers after missing three games with a concussion, isn't focused on proving himself to the Patriots. Instead, he's trying to get his younger teammates to realize how difficult it is to reach the Super Bowl, let alone win one.
Welker said he's talked to his teammates about the Patriots' 2007 Super Bowl run, when they were undefeated and heavily favored but lost to the Giants, 17-14.
"I was thinking we'll be back next year, and the next year, and the next year, and we're going to win one,'' said Welker, who caught six passes for 38 yards and a touchdown last week. "You don't realize how hard it is to get there. You've got to appreciate it and seize that moment and take advantage of it.''