Sports

Broncos get Wes Welker back after his 4-game ban is cut in half under NFL's new drug policy

  • FILE - In this Aug. 23, 2014, file photo, Denver Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker (83) stretches prior to an NFL preseason football game against the Houston Texans in Denver. Player representatives to the union voted to implement HGH testing for the 2014 NFL season, Friday, Sept. 12, 2014. Overall changes are retroactive for players who are suspended under previous policies, and for those in the appeal process. Those players, presumably including Browns receiver Josh Gordon, who is suspended for the season, and Broncos receiver Wes Welker (four games), would be subject to standards of the new policies.(AP Photo/Jack Dempsey, File)

    FILE - In this Aug. 23, 2014, file photo, Denver Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker (83) stretches prior to an NFL preseason football game against the Houston Texans in Denver. Player representatives to the union voted to implement HGH testing for the 2014 NFL season, Friday, Sept. 12, 2014. Overall changes are retroactive for players who are suspended under previous policies, and for those in the appeal process. Those players, presumably including Browns receiver Josh Gordon, who is suspended for the season, and Broncos receiver Wes Welker (four games), would be subject to standards of the new policies.(AP Photo/Jack Dempsey, File)  (The Associated Press)

  • FILE - In this Aug. 28, 2014, file photo, Denver Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker (83) watches the action from the sideline in the second half of a NFL preseason football game against the Dallas Cowboys in Arlington, Texas. The NFL reached an agreement with the players association on changes to its performance-enhancing drug policy, including the addition of human growth hormone testing, which will allow the Welker and two other previously suspended players to return to their teams this week. Under the new rules announced Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014, players who test positive for banned stimulants in the offseason will no longer be suspended. Instead, they will be referred to the substance abuse program. (AP Photo/LM Otero, File)

    FILE - In this Aug. 28, 2014, file photo, Denver Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker (83) watches the action from the sideline in the second half of a NFL preseason football game against the Dallas Cowboys in Arlington, Texas. The NFL reached an agreement with the players association on changes to its performance-enhancing drug policy, including the addition of human growth hormone testing, which will allow the Welker and two other previously suspended players to return to their teams this week. Under the new rules announced Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014, players who test positive for banned stimulants in the offseason will no longer be suspended. Instead, they will be referred to the substance abuse program. (AP Photo/LM Otero, File)  (The Associated Press)

Wes Welker is practicing for the first time since Labor Day. The Denver Broncos wide receiver was reinstated Wednesday after the NFL agreed to a new performance-enhancing drug policy.

Welker's four-game suspension for offseason amphetamine use was essentially cut in half, and he'll be eligible to play Sunday at Seattle.

Under the new rules, players who test positive for banned stimulants in the offseason will no longer be suspended. Instead, they will be referred to the substance-abuse program, where a first offense doesn't result in an immediate ban.

It takes multiple positive tests under the substance-abuse program before a suspension.

The players union agreed to the new policy on Friday. But the NFL didn't sign off on the new policy before Saturday's roster deadline.

Welker likely wouldn't have played against Kansas City anyway after having missed the entire week's preparation.

Welker sustained a concussion on Aug. 23 in a preseason game against Houston. It was his third head injury in a 10-month span. But he's been cleared medically so he was able to get right back on the football field upon his reinstatement.

Before beginning his suspension, Welker, a widely respected 11-year NFL veteran, vehemently disagreed with his punishment and said he'd fight to fix the league's drug policy.

Welker was originally banned until the Broncos' Oct. 12 game against the New York Jets.

Welker caught 73 passes for 778 yards and a career-high 10 TDs last season despite missing the final month. Without him, the Broncos have relied heavily on two-tight end sets with five of Peyton Manning's six TD throws going to tight ends.

The Broncos (2-0) won both games without Welker but faded in the second half of each game after building big leads. Their game against the Seahawks (1-1) is their first road game.

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Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton