Watching Denver Broncos wide receiver try to gather himself after an apparent concussion against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 11, it was clear that his status would be in serious doubt coming into his reunion game against the New England Patriots in Week 13.
But knowing Welker as one of the league's toughest little guys, it was hard to imagine him not being able to be ready for it.
Saying that Welker has passed any and all concussion-protocol tests required to be cleared, and that his neck injury also has healed well, Broncos head coach Jack Del Rio said that Welker — who is listed as probable on the injury report this week — is "definite" to play Sunday in Foxboro.
"First and foremost, we've done the right thing by the player and he's safe to return,'' Del Rio said. "That's first and foremost.
"It's kind of like Peyton [Manning] a while back: If you had a 'definitely will go' category, he's probably be on there. ... [Welker will] play.''
Del Rio used the same "definite" categorization for Manning and his high-ankle sprain coming into the Chiefs game last week. Manning played and was not sacked in the 27-17 victory over the first-place Chiefs.
Welker said he'd do anything in his power to play in this game against the Patriots, for whom he played from 2007 to 2012, before leaving for the Broncos in free agency this offseason. His first season with Manning has been a success, catching 61 passes for 648 yards and nine touchdowns, which tie his career high.
In fact, the biggest question mark coming into Sunday night's game isn't Welker but might be tight end Julius Thomas.
Thomas, who leads the Broncos with 10 touchdowns, was limited in practice Thursday and Friday with a knee injury he suffered last week. Del Rio remained hopeful that Thomas could find a way to play.
"He was limited again today," Del Rio said. "We don't play today, we still have a couple more days, but he was limited in what he could do."
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