Wes Welker’s three games into his return from ACL surgery, and in the lead-up to tonight’s game with Miami, he sat down with ESPN’s Suzy Kolber and assessed where he stands now. And the answer was, for the most part, what you’d expect.
“I’m definitely not 100 percent,” Welker told Kolber. ‘It’s just lacking that little bit, that little bit that really got that separation, that little bit of quickness, that little bit of something that’s just not there yet. But we’re getting there.”
That’s fairly similar to where Welker said he stood in a conversation I had with him at the end of the preseason. And that underscores how the battle back doesn’t end when a player returns to the field.
In Welker’s first three games last year — he missed Weeks 2 and 3, so these are totals from Weeks 1, 4 and 5 — he had 26 catches for 227 yards and a touchdown. This year, he has 18 catches for 147 yards and three touchdowns through three games.
But really, this is far deeper than statistics can show. I did what seemed like dozens of stories on Welker’s return, and if you go to one that ran in June, you’ll see some medical experts emphasizing the point that it’s much tougher for a football player to get back to his pre-injury form than it is for him to simply get back on the field. A statistic that ran four years back in the American Journal of Sports Medicine, cited in that story, said that 79 percent of NFL running backs and receivers return to playing after suffering a torn ACL, but only at 66 percent of their previous effectiveness.
If anyone can make it all the way back, it would seem it’s the tough, driven and defiant-to-criticism Welker. But it’s certainly a tough road for anyone in his position to traverse.