"He was allowed to be in the building, not for very long," said Head Coach John Fox.
But the veteran slot receiver was at Dove Valley long enough to deliver what running back
“Wes just wanted us all to know how important this team is to him, how much we mean to him and what he's going to do when he gets back," said tight end
"I could feel for him. I wouldn't want anybody to go through what he's going through," said Miller. "It's really tough. I'm here for him if he wants to talk about anything, but everybody handles stuff like that differently."
But soon after Welker spoke, the team was back to work. It coped with suspensions to linebacker D.J. Williams for nine games in 2012 and linebacker Von Miller for six games last year. The Broncos still managed to get the No. 1 seed in the postseason each time.
"Losing Wes is a self-inflicted wound; it's different than an injury," said quarterback
Added Thomas: "We know that when he comes back he's going to be a man on a mission and we're looking forward to embracing him when that day comes.”
But in the interim, the Broncos' mission remains the same: to win.
Replacing Welker is not just about the passing game -- although the offense's third-down success through the air was affected by his absence last December after his second concussion in a month. Before Welker suffered his second concussion, the offense converted a league-best 48.2 percent of its third-down attempts. In the three and a half games after Welker was re-injured, that percentage dropped to 39.0.
"I'd be lying to say this would be an easy transition," said Manning. "And I think sometimes when you have some adversity, it’s a challenge and sometimes your top players can really shine for you, can really step up and show you why they are top players, and that's what I'm expecting out of certain guys."
But on every other down and at many other moments, the Broncos will have to replace Welker's intensity and leadership, as well.
"Not only is he an elite receiver, but he's a leader, he's a tempo-setter. He gets us going," said defensive tackle
"He's a lot more to the team than just a wide receiver. Like Peyton said, like I said, it's complementary football. We all have to pick up for Wes -- offense, defense, special teams, he's involved in special teams, too. Everybody just has to do a little bit more."
That could mean Knighton, who was selected as one of the team captains Monday, has a more vocal role.
"It just depends how I'm feeling. Some days it's me, some days it's (Derek) Wolfe, some days it'll be Sly (
And there's a finite end to Welker's absence. He'll be back after four games. He should be healthy; after suffering a concussion Aug. 23 -- his third in 10 months -- he was only cleared to practice, and was not yet cleared through the NFL's post-concussion protocol for game action.
"Sometimes these things are blessings in disguise," Fox said. "I'm sure this extra four weeks will give him plenty of time to heal."
"He's not away for the whole season. It's four games," added Moore. "It's going to be a tough four games without him, but we've got to step it up, make plays.
"When he comes back, we're going to expect the same Wes Welker -- 'even better,' he said."