ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Wes Welker says he has no apprehension as he returns to Denver's lineup today.
Welker missed 3½ games after sustaining his second concussion in a four-week span Dec. 8 against Tennessee. It's the longest the 10-year pro has been sidelined. (He missed one playoff game after tearing his left ACL in Week 17 of 2009, then returned in Week 1 of 2010.)
Four days after the second concussion, Denver missed him in a 27-20 loss to San Diego. It was just 2-of-9 on third down and suffered its only home loss of the season. Denver won 28-10 in San Diego, and the rubber match is today's AFC division playoff game.
Welker, 32, has missed only four other games during his career.
"So I'm very anxious to get back," he said.
Welker was cleared during last week's bye and quickly regained his rhythm with quarterback Peyton Manning.
"When you've played as long as I have, it comes back pretty quick," Welker said. "I really wasn't too worried about that."
He also said he's not going to fret about the possibility of another head injury when he lines up in the slot today.
"I don't worry about the concussions or anything like that," he said. "I just focus on my assignment, my technique and go out there and play the best I can."
Welker, 5 feet 9, 190 pounds, caught a career-high 10 touchdowns in his first season with Manning after spending the past six catching passes from Tom Brady in New England. He was on pace for his sixth 100-catch season before getting hurt and finished with 73 for 778 yards.
Welker will not be sneaking under the Chargers' radar.
"He's one of the best slot receivers of all time," San Diego coach Mike McCoy said, "so his production, wherever he's been, speaks for itself. So you've got to know where he is every play."
The Chargers used their version of Welker for their scout team last week: practice squad player Dan DePalma. The 5-foot-11, 192-pounder also played the role of Welker for the Giants' scout squad two years ago, when they beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl.
"It's just film study, knowing his movements and the way he runs his routes, depths," said DePalma, 24, a standout at Division II West Chester who has not appeared in an NFL game. "Every little thing counts for a defense, especially when it comes down to technique and every play."
Chargers safety Eric Weddle said they will use a couple of different players on Welker.
And with 15-25 mph winds expected, Denver's downfield passing attack to Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker might be curtailed. That could mean an even bigger role for Welker.
"I don't know if it's going to be windy enough to affect the passing game or not," Welker said. "But you just have to focus in and be ready."