Just up to the press box from the Patriots’ OTA session, which was held outdoors at the practice field adjacent to Gillette Stadium. And the big story?
The Patriots All-Pro slot receiver was out there in uniform, with a hinged knee brace covering his left leg. He took part in stretching and an early high-knee bag drill.
And that was just the start. He looked swift and agile during a cone drill, cutting and weaving in a “W” shape. That, to me, is rather significant.
Then, came passing lines. Welker ran routes with his teammates, and you could see him running in-cuts and squirrel routes and slants. He rounded off his cuts and breaks, which is certainly to be expected, and dropped a ball or two, which is no reason for alarm in May.
Then, when the team broke into full-squad offense and defense, he retreated with a trainer to the Dana Farber Field House behind the stadium. He missed that team work, plus the passing skeleton drills and 7-on-7s, before coming out to watch the end of practice, carrying his brace in his left hand.
This has got to be the most encouraging news on Welker in quite some time. Is he ready to play football? No. But a little over three months from the season opener, he’s cutting and running routes and doing football things.
To be clear, the Patriots still can put him on PUP, which is what has been assumed to be what they’ll do. That decision comes at the start of training camp, with another one to follow (the one that would sideline him through Week 6) at the final roster cutdown. But after today? All that looks like a much less likely scenario.