In Wednesday's OTA session, injured Patriots WR Wes Welker was spotted on the field. Barely four months after surgery to repair his injured knee, Welker was back in action running routes and making cuts with his teammates.
To see Welker on the field at all during OTAs is a surprise. Welker suffered a devastating knee injury in the 2009 regular season finale. The injury was widely believed to be serious enough that Welker likely wouldn't be ready to practice to mid-summer at the earliest. He's already proving his doubters wrong.
Even Welker's teammates feel that his return to the field is a bit of a surprise. "It was very impressive to me," Randy Moss said told The Worcester Telegram. "I'm a big fan of Welker - way before he came here, back when he was with Miami - so I can't wait to have him back on the field."
Welker didn't' talk to the media yesterday, but if his comments from last month are any indication, Welker is eager to get back on the field for real.
"I'm going to be back when I'm ready," Welker told the AP during his football camp last month in Oklahoma. "I'm just going to work as hard as I can to be back as early as I can."
That timeframe appears to have been accelerated with Welker's participation yesterday (reportedly not his first practice with the team).
Caution should be exercised when predicting Welker's return. As was the case with Tom Brady, torn ligaments in the knee take time to recover from. Welker's position of wide receiver is much more demanding on the inured knee than Brady's job at QB. Some estimates predict that it takes nearly a year to recover fully from the type of injury Welker suffered.
After just four months, Welker may be ahead of schedule, but still has a long way to go. Despite participating in some of the team's drills, he did leave the field during full team practice. He returned later to watch practice, but declined to elaborate or answer questions about his condition.
Training camp isn't until the end of July (nearly 2 months away), and the season is nearly four months from now. Considering the progress Welker has made so far, it's likely not a stretch to think he could start the season on the active roster, not the PUP list as was initially believed to be the best case scenario.
With Randy Moss rearing to go, a host of young talent eager to prove their worth, veterans David Patten and Torry Holt onboard, having Welker back turns a unit considered the weak link for 2010 into a strength.