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Broncos await new drug policy

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Denver Broncos will have a keen eye on negotiations between the NFL and the NFL Players Association on a new drug policy because the team hopes it means wide receiver Wes Welker could return sooner than his current four-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.

Welker served the first game of the suspension Sunday, but Broncos officials believe a new policy would change the criteria of Welker’s suspension and allow for re-instatement.

ESPN NFL Insiders Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen reported Monday the NFLPA will take a vote Tuesday afternoon among its 32 player representatives on a revised drug policy after a daylong face-to-face negotiation with the league in New York.

There are still details to be worked out, but sources told Schefter and Mortensen the proposal being voted upon includes human growth hormone testing for the first time, significant changes that raise limits for marijuana testing, and expand neutral arbitration.

In an interview Friday with 106.7 The Fan in Washington D.C.,, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith expressed the possibility a deal on a new drug policy could lead to the re-instatement for Welker and Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon. In the interview Smith said players who were recently suspended under the current rules should have their punishments revised and revoked.

“If we get a deal done that covers players in this league year, I don't like that we punish players under a deal active in the old league year," Smith said in the interview. “We don't want players to suffer because the union and the league couldn't get it done before the league year."

All of this comes to light for the Broncos and Welker because Welker's suspension, though for amphetamines, fell under the league’s policy for performance-enhancing drugs. Under the guidelines for PEDs players are suspended for the first flagged positive test. Team sources believe under the proposed new drug policy those stimulants would be characterized under the league’s policy for substance abuse.

Broncos officials, including head coach John Fox, had expressed some frustration about the timing of Welker's suspension, formally announced by the league the Tuesday night before the regular-season opener and three days after rosters had to be cut to 53 players.

Under those guidelines a player enters the treatment program with the first positive test, a program that includes meeting with counselors, and the player is subject to increased testing each month. It takes multiple positive tests under the substance-abuse policy before the suspension phase is reached.

Broncos officials, including head coach John Fox, had expressed some frustration about the timing of Welker's suspension, formally announced by the league the Tuesday night before the regular-season opener and three days after rosters had to be cut to 53 players.

“Ideally, me personally, obviously it wasn’t great timing because we’d picked our roster," Fox said last week. “ ... I would have preferred maybe it was last week, if you’re asking me my preference. But I don’t know that that matters too much. It is what it is, we’ll move on without him."

Welker, who cannot attend meetings or work out at the Broncos complex under the guidelines of a PED suspension, is currently eligible for reinstatement to return to the team Oct. 6, and would then play in the Oct. 12 game against the New York Jets.