Manning, Broncos ready for life without Welker

By By The Sports Xchange
Published On: Sep 03 2014 03:49:52 PM EDT
Updated On: Sep 03 2014 05:32:39 PM EDT

Jeff Haynes/Reuters

Denver Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker has been suspended four games for using performance-enhancing drugs, specifically amphetamines.

Welker tested positive in May and appealed two weeks ago. Participants were notified Tuesday that his appeal was denied, and head coach John Fox said Wednesday he was not particularly fond of the NFL's timing of the ruling.

But the one advantage quarterback Peyton Manning and offensive coordinator Adam Gase had in this scenario was time. The Broncos have been plotting game plans to involve Emmanuel Sanders, a free agent who signed in March, Andre Caldwell and rookie second-round pick Cody Latimer.

"Tonight's news regarding Wes is very disappointing for our team, but we understand the league's authority in this area," 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."

Welker will be eligible to return to the Broncos' active roster on Monday, October 6 following the team's October 5 game against the Arizona Cardinals.

"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 said in an email to the Denver Post.

Reports surfaced Wednesday that alleged Welker took MDMA, which has the street name Molly, during the 2014 Kentucky Derby. Welker denied the accusations, saying he wouldn't know what the drug was or where to get it. New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who joined Welker at the Derby, laughed Wednesday when asked if he witnessed Welker taking drugs.

"I have no comment on that," Brady said during his typical midweek press conference.

Welker, who suffered his third concussion since Nov. 17 this preseason, just returned to practice Monday, although he hasn't yet been cleared for contact. He is a free agent after the season and caught 73 balls, including 10 touchdowns, for 778 yards last season.

That means Manning takes the first snap Sunday night without two of his top three receivers last season. Wide receiver Eric Decker signed with the New York Jets as a free agent in the offseason.

Welker and Decker combined for 160 receptions and 21 touchdowns in 2013. The Broncos are also introducing a new starter at running back in Montee Ball. Knowshon Moreno caught 60 passes in 2013, fifth on the team in receiving.

Preparation of legendary proportions from their All-Pro quarterback might put the Broncos at ease. Plus, Manning has experienced this type of turnover before.

With the Indianapolis Colts in 2009, Manning worked without two of his top three receivers the previous season -- Marvin Harrison and Anthony Gonzalez. The Colts went 14-2, and Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon emerged as strong complimentary receivers to Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark, who caught 100 passes apiece that season.

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