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Suspension allowed Welker further recovery from concussion

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The end of Wes Welker's suspension following ratification of a modified drug-testing policy came too late to avoid costing him any games.

But the two-game absence might not have been an altogether bad thing for the 11-year veteran wide receiver, who is 24 days removed from his third concussion in a 12-month span.

Was the suspension a blessing in disguise?

"Yeah, maybe a little bit," Welker acknowledged Wednesday. "You always hate to miss any time at all, but especially with head injuries and things like that, every week and every day is good for it."

Welker said he was cleared to play through the NFL's post-concussion protocol in the last week. The system includes multiple examinations, and a player cannot receive the go-ahead to play without an all-clear from an independent neurologist.

Nevertheless, Welker's future and the question of whether he should play has been a topic of fierce debate, given the frequency of concussions.

"I appreciate their concern, but at the same time, I feel great. I feel sharp and ready to go."

His return to the practice field represented a bit of a vindication after the NFL and its players association ratified a modified drug-testing policy that included reclassifying some substances as substance abuse, rather than performance enhancing, during the offseason.

"I said it was flawed, and we got it fixed," said Welker. "I think that just kind of goes to show that it was flawed, and it's fixed now, and we can move on from it."

Now the question is simple: will he play in Seattle on Sunday?

"That's a coaches' decision," Welker said.

The answer rests in how quickly he can get up to speed and shake off the rust of missing two weeks of practice. During the time away, Welker said he worked out, did "honey-do chores -- not very well." He remained in the Denver area, but was forbidden from returning to team headquarters until Wednesday morning, when his suspension was officially lifted.

"Being out there with your teammates and everything else, you really realize how much you miss it when you're not able to come here and go to work and be in meetings," he said.

"It was good to get him out there to see how he looks and feels," said quarterback Peyton Manning, "and it would certainly be great to have him out there on Sunday if that's the plan."

His presence could change the offense's tactics. In Weeks 1 and 2, the Broncos made extensive use of two-tight end personnel groupings. Denver utilized them on 79 of 115 offensive snaps -- although often with one or both of the tight ends in the slot or split out wide.

But Welker aids in other ways -- which will be valuable given the magnitude of Sunday's clash with the defending world champions.

"Wes has played in a lot of big games, on the road and he's seen about every defense you can possibly see so his presence helps our entire football team," said Manning. "He helps the receivers -- Demaryius [Thomas], Emmanuel [Sanders] -- who are still young receivers in my opinion and Wes can help those guys during the week and out there on the field. Julius (Thomas), as well.

"So there's more than just his catching a pass or route running that Wes Welker provides. It would be nice to have him back and he can bring some of his strengths back with him."

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