The Denver Broncos knew there was a chance Wes Welker wouldn't play in the season opener against the Indianapolis Colts. Likewise, the Colts knew owner Jim Irsay might not get a chance to see them play in person. Now they will both be absent for opening night, with Irsay finally getting suspended on Sept. 2 for six weeks due to his DUI arrest, and Welker having to sit out as well -- but not because of his latest concussion.
Welker will miss the first four games of the season because he tested positive for amphetamines, according to ESPN. He lost his appeal on Sept. 2, then attacked the NFL's drug policy as being "flawed" in an e-mail to the Denver Post. At the very least, by the time he can come back in Week 6, his concussion should be fully healed -- although that won't help the Broncos against the likes of the Colts, Kansas City Chiefs, Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals in their opening games.
Sources say that Welker's positive test was taken after he attended the Kentucky Derby, although he denied he took any drugs there -- and wondered in his e-mail if they were slipped into his drink. But his defense didn't pan out with the NFL, and now the Broncos will be without their top receiver for an even longer time period than they feared.
The announcement came hours after their first opponent's owner also got disciplined by the NFL, for a slightly longer time period. Irsay's fate had been in question all summer following his DUI arrest, and after the light punishment handed down to Ray Rice for domestic abuse, many wondered if the league would have the will to get tougher with an actual owner.
After Irsay pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count on Sept. 2, it was time for the league to make a decision. The NFL did wind up fining Irsay the maximum amount for an owner, which is still only $500,000. He turned out to be suspended for three times longer than Rice, but only two weeks longer than Welker. He also won't be allowed to give interviews or post on Twitter.
But whether the league was tough, lenient or not, the Colts will still be less short handed on the field in the next several weeks -- and on Sunday night in Denver -- than the Broncos will be.