Wes Welker spoke with his Broncos teammates Wednesday morning, but he won't be allowed in team headquarters for the next four weeks because he violated the NFL's performance-enhancing drug policy. Not only is Welker's physical absence likely to hurt the Broncos, but the distraction of another valuable player being lost right before the season because of off-field behavior was clearly not well-received by coach John Fox.
"I was very disappointed, but we honor the league's policies," Fox said Wednesday, four days before Sunday's season opener against the Indianapolis Colts. "Guys will have to step up like, like anytime we lose somebody."
Asked if he was surprised Welker was caught violating the league's PED policy, which sources told The Denver Post was for taking Adderall, Fox said, "You do this long enough, you're surprised, but not totally. We were disappointed, but we'll move on."
Broncos tight end Julius Thomas said Welker addressed the team before practice.
"Wes just wanted us to know how much this team means to him, and how much we mean to him, and what he's going to do when he gets back," Thomas said. "There's nothing that can be done right now, but we know when he comes back he's going to be a man on a mission."
This is the third season in a row a starting Broncos player has been suspended before a season for violating league drug policies (Von Miller and D.J. Williams were the others), something quarterback Peyton Manning said the organization "isn't too proud of."
"I guess I wasn't shocked. It was something I thought might be happening, so it's something we were somewhat prepared for. Unfortunately, it's something that's happened to us in the past," Manning said. "We've had some players who we thought were going to be with us that weren't. The good thing is, we were able to overcome it. It hasn't been easy, and it's something you'd like not to have happen, but I think it's a little bit of a gut-check time.
Fox, who declined to say who might take Welker's spot on the depth chart, said Welker, who had been out recently because of a concussion, probably would have been cleared to practice this week had he not been suspended.
"Had he been able to practice today, I think he would have been cleared to practice, but that doesn't necessarily mean cleared for the games," Fox said. "Sometimes these things are blessings in disguise. Those extra four weeks will give him plenty of time to heal."
Broncos general manger John Elway talked briefly with the media about Welker's suspension before his 2 p.m. tee time at the BMW Championship golf tournament pro-am .
"There's going to be more bumps in the road as we go," Elway said. "There's always bumps, and it's a just a matter of how you handle the bumps, and we'll handle this one. The next guy in line will step up. And we'll be ready to go against the Colts."
When asked about the shock of Welker's suspension, Elway again said: "We'll be ready to go against the Colts" and walked away to the putting green.