Wes Welker could be back on field by Sunday

ADDS VOTED TO IMPLEMENT TESTING - FILE - In this Aug. 23, 2014, file photo, Denver Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker (83) stretches prior to an NFL preseason football game against the Houston Texans in Denver. Player representatives to the union voted to i
Jack Dempsey, File

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) Wes Welker has passed concussion protocol and could be back on the field as soon as Sunday if the NFL signs off on a new drug policy approved by the players' union.

Representatives of the NFL Players Association approved the comprehensive new policy Friday that includes implementation of testing for HGH and an increase in the threshold for testing positive for marijuana.

Welker was suspended four games for amphetamine use in the offseason, but punishment for that is being switched from the performance enhancers policy to the substance abuse program - except for in-season violations.

If the league approves the agreement - an NFL spokesman said late Friday night there were unresolved issues and it was not a done deal - the Broncos' slot receiver could be eligible to play when the Kansas City Chiefs visit Denver on Sunday.

That doesn't mean he would, however: the Broncos might decide to keep him out until next week's game at Seattle.

After all, he's practiced just once since sustaining his third concussion in a 10-month span on Aug. 23. That came on Sept. 1, one day before he was suspended.

The Broncos have an opening on their 53-man roster after shifting wide receiver Nathan Palmer to the practice squad this week.

''We'll accept Wes back whenever that is,'' coach John Fox said Friday before the players reps voted on the drug policy. He refused to speculate about Welker's availability this weekend, saying, ''I'm not into hypotheticals.''

His teammates said they believed Welker could step right back in, though.

''I don't think it's going to be difficult at all,'' wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders said. ''We're going to welcome him back in here. We're actually excited to get him back. I know he's excited. It's going to be fun. I know the Kansas City Chiefs don't want him to come back.''

Even if he does play, it's likely Welker would be used sparingly after missing so much practice time.

''I'm sure he's in great shape,'' tight end Jacob Tamme said. ''I'm sure he's ready to go. I know that because I know him.''

On Wednesday, Peyton Manning said he had been in contact this week with Welker, who's in Denver, ''and I know he's champing at the bit to get back.''

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

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Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton

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