The NFL suspended Denver Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker for the first four games of the upcoming 2014 regular season for testing positive for Aderall, a banned performance-enhancing drug (PED).
"Denver Broncos wider receiver Wes Welker has been suspended four games for use of amphetamines, sources told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.
"Welker was excused from practice Aug. 20-21 to attend his appeal hearing, sources told ESPN Senior NFL Analyst Chris Mortensen.
"Welker tested positive from a sample taken shortly after he attended the Kentucky Derby, according to sources. He argued that the sample was tainted.
"Team sources say some within the organization believe Welker -- if cleared medically through concussion protocol -- may have a chance to play during Sunday night's regular-season opener against the Indianapolis Colts because the suspension has not been officially announced by the NFL.
"Welker returned to the practice field Monday as he continues through the NFL's concussion protocol. He would have to be symptom-free to take part in a full practice and then remain symptom-free after that and be clearly by an independent medical doctor to play. Welker suffered his third concussion since Nov. 17 during the preseason against the (Houston) Texans.
"The wide receiver had not been cleared for contact and Monday's appearance on the practice field was his first since he suffered a concussion Aug. 23.
"Welker's suspension is a huge blow to the Broncos' receiving game. Last season only four wide receivers caught passes for Denver and nearly 60 percent of those repetitions will not be on the field in Week 1, as Eric Decker is now with the (New York) Jets and Welker is suspended, according to ESPN Stats & Information."
Welker's four-game suspension was also confirmed by NFL Media's Albert Breer by way of his colleague at NFL.com, Gregg Rosenthal:
"Wes Welker won't be available for the start of the season, but it has nothing to do with the concussion he recently suffered.
"NFL Media's Albert Breer reports that Welker has been suspended four games for violating the league's performance-enhancing drug policy, according to sources. Welker's appeal happened two weeks ago and parties were notified today that he lost the appeal.
"Breer reports that Welker's positive test came in May, so the suspension doesn't hit the Broncos brass as a surprise. They are far more well-equipped to handle the loss on the field than most squads. Emmanuel Sanders looked fantastic in the preseason, and he's better playing out of the slot than on the outside. Tight end Julius Thomas can handle a lot of the dirty work between the numbers where Welker resides. Veteran Andre Caldwell and second-round pick Cody Latimer should also get more snaps.
"The news is still a big setback for the Broncos during a challenging start of the season. They open the season with (the) Indianapolis (Colts), Kansas City (Chiefs), Seattle (Seahawks) and Arizona (Cardinals). Their rebuilt defense will pick up more of the slack now, but we saw last season that this team isn't going to fall apart just because it's missing one player.
"Welker suffered his third concussion in the last 10 months only two weeks ago. His mandatory departure from the team will give him additional time to recover, but it doesn't help Welker's chances of returning in 2015 -- he's a free agent at the end of the season."
The 33-year-old Welker has caught for 9,358 yards and 48 touchdowns on 841 receptions in 152 career regular-season games with the Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots and Denver Broncos, per ESPN stats.