- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Despite his progress in returning from a knee injury, New England Patriots receiver Wes Welker did not play in Thursday night's preseason opener at Gillette Stadium, a 27-24 win for the Patriots against the New Orleans Saints.
When asked after the game if the approach with Welker was playing it safe, coach Bill Belichick said, "The players that didn't dress and play tonight, we just didn't feel were ready to play. That goes for everybody."
Earlier in the day, following the induction of Sam Cunningham into the team's Hall of Fame, Patriots owner Robert Kraft told reporters not to be disappointed if there is no sign of Welker on the field.
"He will come back when the time is right," Kraft said.
Welker was a full participant in joint practices with the Saints on Tuesday and Wednesday, but he has yet to be part of live tackling. It appears that Bill Belichick has decided to wait for Welker to experience live tackling in camp before he sees game action.
Rookie outside linebacker Jermaine Cunningham, whom the Patriots are counting on to boost their pass rush, also did not dress for Thursday night's game.
Cunningham, one of the team's second-round draft choices, was sidelined in Wednesday's practice with an undisclosed injury sustained during a drill in which he was on the punt return unit.
Other players not dressed included receiver Matthew Slater, cornerback Leigh Bodden, safety Bret Lockett, cornerback Terrence Johnson, inside linebacker Gary Guyton, guard Nick Kaczur, receiver Torry Holt, defensive end Ty Warren and defensive end Ron Brace.
Student assistant Mike Rodak contributed to this report.