Denver Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker has been suspended for the first four games of the 2014 season, the NFL announced on Tuesday. Welker was suspended for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances.
"The news regarding Wes is very disappointing for our team, but we understand the league's authority in this area," Broncos coach John Fox said in a statement. "While it's unfortunate to not have him to start the year, I have full confidence in our wide receivers and expect that group to continue playing at a high level."
The Broncos' first four games of the season are against Indianapolis, Kansas City, at Seattle and at home against Arizona. Because the Broncos have a Week 4 bye, Welker won't be able to return until Week 6.
According to FoxSports.com, the Broncos have known since before training camp that Welker might be suspended, but the team was holding out hope that he'd win his appeal. Obviously, Welker didn't win the appeal, and now he can't return to the team until Oct. 6.
Welker failed his drug test after taking ecstasy laced with amphetamines while at the Kentucky Derby, according to ProFootballTalk.com. That was the same event where Welker handed out $100 bills on his way out of Churchill Downs after a cashier mistakenly overpaid him almost $15,000 in winnings.
The suspension isn't completely horrible news for Welker because it will give him five weeks to heal his head. The 33-year-old suffered his third concussion in 10 months on Aug. 23 and it wasn't even completely clear if he was even going to be healthy enough to play in Week 1.
Welker returned to practice this week, but still had not been cleared to play in the Broncos opener against the Colts. Welker missed over a month of action after suffering his second concussion last December.
The suspension to Welker means the Broncos will be without at least two players for the first games of the season. Kicker Matt Prater is serving a four-game suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy.