Welker and Mankins both struggled with injury issues throughout the season, but neither was listed on the team's final injury report leading into the AFC Championship. Welker was limited by a knee injury for several weeks, while Mankins dealt with both a calf and hip injury, which cost him a total of six games missed.
Mankins was voted as a starter in the game, and earned his fifth Pro Bowl selection, while Welker was also named to his fifth Pro Bowl. Mankins has long been considered among the top interior offensive lineman in the NFL, while Welker became the first player in NFL history with 110 receptions in five separate seasons in 2012.
With tight end Rob Gronkowski also out with a broken forearm, just four Patriots, quarterback Tom Brady, linebacker Jerod Mayo, nose tackle Vince Wilfork and special teamer Matthew Slater are left on the roster to play in the game this Sunday.
In his interview on Boston sports radio station WEEI on Monday morning, Brady wouldn’t say definitively he would be heading to Hawaii.
“We have an actual physical today, so we’re going to see how I really feel,” he said.
He added: “I would love to play, but I’m not sure with a few of the things that have kind of come up if I’ll be capable. But I’ll check with the doctor and see what he thinks.”