Sources fear Welker has torn ACL

The New England Patriots suffered a significant blow to their Super Bowl hopes when wide receiver Wes Welker(notes) suffered what is feared by one source to be a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee on Sunday.

The Patriots are awaiting the results of an MRI exam on the knee, but an on-field exam showed instability with the knee consistent with an ACL tear, according to a team source. New England coach Bill Belichick didn’t provide an update on the injury after the game.

Welker grabs his left leg after going down against the Texans.
(Brett Davis/US Presswire)

Welker, the NFL leader in receptions, appeared to hurt his left knee before he was hit after a first-quarter reception during New England’s 34-27 loss to the Houston Texans. Welker didn’t get up after being tackled, was helped off the field and then carted into the locker room. He never returned to the field and was extremely upset on the sideline.

ACL tears almost always require surgery and then months of rehabilitation. While it is a complicated injury, diagnosing it on the field is relatively simple, according to numerous doctors.

Welker has become a Pro Bowl receiver since being acquired by New England via trade in 2007. He has caught at least 111 passes in each of his three seasons with the Patriots. If Welker is sidelined for New England’s first-round playoff game next weekend, rookie Julian Edelman(notes) likely would replace him in the starting lineup.

Jason Cole is a national NFL writer for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter. Send Jason a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Sunday, Jan 3, 2010