Denver Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker was suspended for the first four games of the National Football League season after testing positive for amphetamines, a violation of the league's substance-abuse policy, according to a person with direct knowledge of the penalty.
Welker, 33, a five-time All-Pro entering his second year with the Broncos, lost an appeal and will miss the team's Sept. 7 season-opening game against the Indianapolis Colts at Sports Authority Field at Mile High as well as a Sept. 14 home game against the Kansas City Chiefs; a Sept. 21 road game at the Seattle Seahawks, who beat Denver 43-8 in February's Super Bowl, and an Oct. 5 home game versus the Arizona Cardinals.
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The person was not authorized to release the information and asked for anonymity. NFL Spokesman Brian McCarthy didn't immediately return an email seeking comment.
Welker, one of quarterback Peyton Manning's top targets, was already in question for the opener after suffering his third concussion in less than 10 months, this one against the Houston Texans in an exhibition game on Aug. 23, 15 days before the beginning of the season.
Amphetamines are stimulants, often prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The drug can improve focus and provide an energy boost. The NFL allows therapeutic- use exemptions for stimulants such as the brand Adderall.
Welker played in 13 games last season, catching 73 passes -- third most on the Broncos -- for 778 yards. He's had more than 100 receptions five times in his 11-year pro career, including 123 in 2009, tied for second in NFL history behind Marvin Harrison's 143 in 2002.
Welker played for the San Diego Chargers and Miami Dolphins before a six-year stint with the New England Patriots from 2007-12. He signed a two-year contract with Denver before last season.
His 841 career catches are 24th in NFL history, while his 9,358 yards receiving rank 47th.
The Broncos' other wide receivers include Demaryius Thomas, who has caught more than 90 passes in each of the past two seasons, as well as Emmanuel Sanders, Andre Caldwell and rookie Cody Latimer.
The NFL on Aug. 28 suspended the Cleveland Browns' Josh Gordon, the league's leading receiver with 1,646 yards in 14 games last season, for this year after Gordon lost an appeal for a repeat violation of the NFL's substance-abuse policy.
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