The New England Patriots wouldn't make it official Monday, but it was obvious to anyone who saw Wes Welker carted off the Reliant Stadium field in tears the day before that the wide receiver won't be playing against the Ravens in the first round of the AFC playoffs Sunday.
Welker, who, according to several reports, tore the anterior cruciate ligament and the medial collateral ligament in his left knee, underwent a magnetic resonance imaging Monday to determine the extent of the injury. The Patriots are preparing for life without Welker, who caught 123 passes for 1,348 yards this season.
"I felt badly for him," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "He's had a great year. It's unfortunate to see any player have an injury. Wes is a great competitor. And I'm sure that - whatever it is - he'll work hard as he always does to bounce back."
New England quarterback Tom Brady, making his weekly appearance on Boston radio station WEEI, had already begun to use the past tense when talking about Welker. The 5-foot-9 receiver from Texas Tech is responsible for more than 30 percent of Brady's completions this year.
"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," Brady told "The Dennis & Callahan Show."
Although Belichick offered little comment during a teleconference with the media Monday, he had less than kind things to say about the Houston Texans' grass field in his weekly paid appearance on WEEI. Welker suffered the noncontact injury when he cut trying to avoid a tackle.
"I thought it was terrible," Belichick said on WEEI. "I really thought it was one of the worst fields I've seen. ... I don't know what would have happened on another field. The quality of the field I thought was poor. I'm not saying it cost us the game, but at this level we ought to be able to play with consistency."
In the interview, Belichick also took a dig at CBS Sports analyst Charley Casserly, a former NFL general manager, who reported Sunday that Brady has been playing with cracked ribs for three weeks.
"Who's been wrong more than Charley Casserly since he left the Redskins? His percentage is like a meteorologist," Belichick said. "He has no relationship to this team. I'd say less than zero. Based on what? He's never at a practice, never at a game."
As for replacing Welker in their lineup, the Patriots will likely rely more on rookie Julian Edelman, a college quarterback who was drafted in the seventh round by the Patriots and turned into a wide receiver. He caught 10 passes for 103 yards filling in for Welker against Houston.
Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio said there are some similarities between Welker and Edelman, but that they're very different players.
"Really, each is their own player," Caserio said. "Wes has been a great player. He's been in the league now for a number of years. Julian, you're talking about a rookie who really this is his first year playing a position. I think where they may be similar is they're both good with the ball in their hands. Julian is a little bit bigger - bigger build, bigger body may have a little bit more strength to him. I would say there's some attributes that may be similar, but they're two different types of player and I think they have two different styles."
The Ravens and Patriots can both take solace in the fact that Welker wasn't a major factor in the outcome of the first matchup between the teams. Shadowed by Chris Carr throughout the day, Welker caught six passes but was limited to 48 receiving yards.