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Saturday, July 24, 2010
Spotlight on Welker's recovery, return

By Mike Reiss

Receiver Wes Welker’s recovery and availability for training camp has been a hot topic in New England over the past 24 hours.

It started on Friday afternoon when Andy Gresh and Scott Zolak, co-hosts on The Sports Hub 98.5, reported that Welker is expected to be a full participant at training camp. Their sources told them Welker would not be placed on the active/physically unable to perform list. Yet they added that Welker would still have to be officially cleared medically, which was expected to happen.

On Saturday, the Boston Globe’s Albert Breer, citing an NFL source, confirmed that Welker is ready to open training camp and take part in all drills, contact included.

The Boston Herald’s Karen Guregian also reported on Welker, writing: “A source close to the situation wasn’t as definitive with Welker’s status, telling the Herald it was more likely the wide receiver would start camp on the Active PUP list as a precaution, but that it was all subject to evaluation by the medical staff. So while the inclination is to start Welker on the PUP list, there is a possibility he could dodge it based on what the Patriots doctors report and how coach Bill Belichick feels putting all the information together.”

Processing this information, and combining it with independent reporting for ESPNBoston.com, there are two main issues:

1. Welker's recovery

2. Welker's roster status as it pertains to the physically unable to perform list

There is little doubt that Welker’s recovery from February surgery to repair a torn left ACL has proceeded as well as he could have hoped. The possibility of Welker being on the practice field for the first day of training camp Thursday is real, and that alone is terrific news for Welker and the Patriots. It also strengthens the possibility that Welker will be ready for the season opener Sept. 12.

Yet, as the Boston Herald story details, the possibility still exists that Welker could open training camp on the active/physically unable to perform list, and thus not be on the practice field. The Patriots would be taking a cautious approach if they go in that direction; it wouldn't be a sign that Welker has had any setbacks. That decision likely won’t come until Wednesday or even Thursday morning.

So in putting it all together, Welker’s situation is probably best summed up this way:

He has made great progress and the possibility of him being ready for the season opener looks as promising as ever, but his presence on the practice field for the first day of training camp remains in question based on how conservative the Patriots are in their approach.