Just days before the season opener, the Denver Broncos’ offense suffered a serious blow.
Slot receiver Wes Welker has been suspended four games for a violation of the NFL’s performance-enhancing drug policy after testing positive for a banned amphetamine, the team announced Tuesday.
“I’m as shocked as everyone at todays news,” Welker said in an e-mail to The Denver Post. “I want to make one thing abundantly clear: I would NEVER knowingly take a substance to gain a competitive advantage in any way. … I have never been concerned with the leagues performance enhancing or drug abuse policies because under no scenario would they ever apply to me, but I now know, that (drug-policy procedures) are clearly flawed, and I will do everything in my power to ensure they are corrected, so other individuals and teams aren’t negatively affected so rashly like this.”
Welker appealed the penalty two weeks ago, the person said, but it was rejected by the league.
Welker will be eligible to return to the Broncos, who have a bye in Week 4, for their Week 6 game at the New York Jets.
He is the second Bronco suspended this season. Kicker Matt Prater will also miss the first four games for a violation of the substance policy for repeated alcohol violations.
“Tonight’s news regarding Wes is very disappointing for our team, but we understand the league’s authority in this area,” Broncos coach John Fox said. “While it’s unfortunate to not have him to start the year, I have full confidence in our wide receivers and expect that group to continue playing at a high level. I have no doubt that Wes will remain focused on his preparations for the season and stay in excellent shape during his time away from the team.”
The Broncos had been hoping Welker would be cleared to play against Indianapolis after suffering a concussion Aug. 23. He participated in individual drills at practice on Monday but was not yet cleared for contact.
Welker’s concussion and pending appeal gave the Broncos time to prepare to play without him. The most likely option for the offense is that wideout Emmanuel Sanders playing more in the slot while Andre Caldwell sees more time as an outside receiver. Welker’s absence could also lead to playing time for second-round draft pick Cody Latimer and veteran tight end Jacob Tamme, who can also play from the sl