New England Patriots receiver Wes Welker returned to practice Sunday. The team decided to clear him for work and take him off the active/physically unable to perform list. Welker missed the Patriots' first few days of practice, despite news last week that he was hoping to be available for the start of camp.
The move was first reported by ESPNBoston.com's Mike Reiss, and has been confirmed by the team.
Welker injured his knee Jan. 2 during a game against Houston. He had surgery in February to repair a torn ACL, and there was MCL damage, too.
Nick Caserio, the Patriots' director of player personnel, said Welker passed his physical and was cleared by doctors to practice. He told the media Welker's recovery is a great tribue to the player.
"Every player has to go at their own pace. But Wes is a unique guy, there's no question about it," Caserio said. "He realizes he has to go out there and prove himself once again regardless of what's happened in the past, just like any player ... it's a tribute to him, and his work ethic and his toughness that he's back out on the field. We'll see how it goes."By starting Welker on the active/PUP list, the Patriots avoided a procedural nightmare should Welker have suffered a setback during workouts. No player can be placed on the PUP list -- active or reserve -- if he has taken part in a practice.
After playing it conservatively with Welker, though, the Patriots have decided he's good to go. Expect Welker to take part in no more than one or two preseason games, and he should be available for the Sept. 12 opener against Cincinnati.