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Welker returns to practice, hopes to play Sunday

AP - Sports
Welker probable for Broncos game at New England
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Denver Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker (83) catches a pass against the Kansas City Chiefs in the second quarter of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) -- Wes Welker returned to practice Thursday for the first time since leaving Sunday's game against Kansas City with a concussion.

Also back in action was tight end Julius Thomas (right knee). Both were limited as the Broncos (9-1) practiced in snowy, 20-degree weather, which interim head coach Jack Del Rio called a ''blessing'' as his team prepares for Sunday's game at chilly New England (7-3).

Welker, who passed his baseline concussion test earlier in the week, wasn't allowed any contact work. He'll get to do that Friday if all goes well.

He said he's hopeful he'll be able to play against his former team.

''I want to be out there,'' Welker said. ''I mean, there are not too many games I've missed in my whole career and I love playing the game, especially in big atmospheres like this. So, I'm doing everything possible in my power to make sure that I get the opportunity to play in a game like this.''

Welker, who spent six seasons as Tom Brady's bull's-eye in New England before signing a two-year, $12 million deal with Denver in the offseason, leads the Broncos with 61 receptions and has already tied his career high with nine TD catches from Peyton Manning.

Welker said it'll be strange playing in New England as a visitor for the first time since Oct. 8, 2006, when he was with the Miami Dolphins.

''But it's another game, another field. It's still the same size and everything else,'' Welker said. ''I'm familiar with it, so that's an advantage for sure.''

Welker concurred with Del Rio's assessment that Thursday's practice in nasty conditions was good preparation for this weekend.

The inclement weather gave Manning another chance to work on his game while wearing gloves as he did last week when he completed 24 of 40 passes for 323 yards in a 27-17 win over Kansas City.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

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Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton

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