Wes Welker returned to the Denver Broncos practice field but has not been cleared to play.
USA Today is reporting that Welker has been allowed to return to the practice field nine days after suffering a concussion in the Broncos’ third preseason game. This is a good indication that he may be cleared to play in the Broncos’ opening season game against the Indianapolis Colts in Denver.
“He’s still in the [post-concussion] protocol. He’s still exercising,” head coach John Fox said Monday afternoon. “We feel good about his progress.” John Elway, the team’s executive vice president of football operations and general manager, said Saturday that Welker was making progress but the team would “take it one day at a time.”
It marked another stage in Welker’s recovery from what was his third concussion since November 17. He had been cleared to travel with the team last week to Texas for the preseason finale against the Dallas Cowboys. Welker ran some routes in shorts and a T-shirt with no helmet before that game, but he was not in uniform once it began.
Welker did not participate in practices last week for the Broncos after suffering the concussion August 23 against Houston. It was Welker’s third concussion in 10 months. He missed just a week after suffering the first one last season, against Kansas City in November. His second concussion came three weeks later and caused him to miss the four weeks of practice and Denver’s final three regular-season games.
It’s clear that Welker wants to return as soon as possible, but the Broncos will still be very careful with him. “Obviously, as I said all last week, he’s a guy we’ll be cautious with, and our main concern is his safety,” Fox said. The Broncos still have three practices left before they have to make a decision.
ESPN is reporting that Welker has to clear a benchmark of the new concussion policy before he can return to full practice or play in a game. The timetable starts when the player is symptom-free from the concussion. Then, the player returns to no-contact practice. So long as the player still doesn’t show any symptoms from the last concussion, they then return to full-contact practice, then to games. Welker would also have to be cleared by an independent doctor who is designated by both the NFL and the Player’s Association.
The new NFL concussion protocol was adopted before the 2013 season in an attempt to protect players from the long-term effects of sustained concussive damage to the brain.