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Danny Amendola welcomes challenge of following Wes Welker again

03.15.13 at 4:19 pm ET
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Danny Amendola signed with the Patriots this week. (AP)

Danny Amendola signed with the Patriots this week. (AP)

Danny Amendola has an answer for critics who might call him injury-prone.

“You have to understand that it’s a football game. Injuries sometimes happen,” Amendola said on a conference call with the media on Friday afternoon. “I really don’t have much to say about the critics who talk about injuries because its just part of the game and stuff like that happens. Trying to stay healthy and trying to get on the field obviously, is the number one priority.”

Amendola, who signed a free agent deal with the Patriots earlier this week, comes to New England after playing 12 games the last two years with the Rams because of injury issues. When he’s been healthy, he’s emerged as one of the finest young receivers in the game — he had 85 catches in 2010, the one season he was able to play in all 16 games. But he’s been dogged by clavicle, heal and foot injuries as of late, which have limited his production.

“The best way to go about things is to stay positive and work on other areas, so to speak, if you can’t necessarily play because you’re out,” he added, explaining ways to improve while you’re sidelined. “You want to get smarter in the film room or get stronger in the weight room or in other areas — just try to get better each day.”

With the Patriots, the 27-year-old Amendola will likely be asked to help replace some of the production that was offered by Wes Welker over the last six seasons. In that stretch, Welker caught at least 100 balls in five of those six years. Amendola welcomes the challenge of trying to replace a guy he also followed as a collegian at Texas Tech.

“About all those comparisons to Wes, you said [it]] — I’ve been hearing it for a long time,” said Amendola. “We went to the same college and I’ve been watching him play for a long time. He’s a great player, he’s been to a lot of Pro Bowls and he’s done a lot of great things to help the Patriots win. One of my main goals is to fulfill my role and try to do what I can to help the Patriots win as well.”

Welker and Amendola have followed an eerily similar career arc, one we detailed here. Welker, who knocked around in his first few years in the league, had one breakout year before joining the Patriots prior to the 2007 season. The possibility exists that Amendola could make the same leap, but right now, he’s not concerned with all that.

“The first goal of mine right now is to just fulfill a role on the team — really, just find my niche and meet the guys and start working,” said Amendola, who said he spoke with Brady on Thursday. “I’m really not worried about a lot of things down the line. I want to get stuff done now and I want to become the best player I can as early as I can for the New England Patriots and I’m sure all the accolades or whatever that come with it will come about in the future. It’s something I can’t really control. What I can control is showing up to work on time each day and preparing to win and working hard. That’s really the only thing I’m going to be worried about.”

Welker provided the majority of his production in the slot — similar to what Amendola has brought to the league over the course of his career — but Amendola said he should necessarily be pigeonholed as only a slot receiver.

“I did a number of things last year from the outside,” he said. “Whatever my role is on each play, that’s just what I have to do. I have to do my job. That’s pretty much it, regardless of whether it’s inside or outside. Like I said, I want to be a football player. You never want to be labeled as just a slot or just an outside guy. You want to feel like you can move guys around and create mismatches and whatnot.”

However, following in Welker’s footsteps again wasn’t necessarily the primary reason he came to New England. Amendola also welcomed the opportunity to work with Josh McDaniels a second time. The two were together for a single season in St. Louis (2011) when McDaniels worked as the offensive coordinator for the Rams. He said that even though he was only with him for one year — injuries limited Amendola to just one game that season — the “familiarity” should provide him with a boost when it comes to learning the New England offense.

“Playing for Josh for one year gave me the opportunity to learn his offense and kind of figure out what I could do within the offense — what really excited me,” Amendola said. “I loved playing for him, even though I went down the first game that year and I didn’t get much after that first game. Just the familiarity I had already with the offense and what I feel like I can bring to the table. That’s what excites me the most.”

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