Welker back at practice; Fox checks in

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Wide receiver Wes Welker (ankle) returned to practice, but that may not be the best bit of news the Denver Broncos got Thursday.

Interim coach Jack Del Rio said following the workout that he spoke with coach John Fox earlier in the day. Fox is currently in intensive care at a hospital in the Charlotte, N.C., area after open-heart surgery Monday to replace his aortic valve. Fox is on a leave of absence, and will not return for several weeks.

“I got to speak with John this morning for about 20 minutes on the phone, he sounded great,’’ Del Rio said. “He’s still in ICU and his spirits are really good. He was a little tired, obviously he’s gone through quite a bit, his body has been put through quite a bit.’’

Del Rio said Fox was ready with questions about how things were going as the team prepares for Sunday’s game in San Diego.

“But he’s in great spirits and he’s healing,’’ Del Rio said. “We talked for a good bit, he obviously was wanting to talk about the team and how everyone was doing. I told everybody was doing great and working to make him proud.’’

Del Rio said practice went well and that Welker had done “a lot,’’ even as the veteran receiver was listed as limited. Cornerback Champ Bailey (left foot) and safety Duke Ihenacho (ankle) were the only players held out of practice as both worked with strength coaches on a side field.

Tight end Julius Thomas (ankle), center Manny Ramirez (knee), tight end Joel Dreessen (knee) and right tackle Orlando Franklin (ankle) were limited. Running back Knowshon Moreno, who had been held out of Monday’s practice, practice fully for the second consecutive day.

Bailey, who suffered his original injury against Seattle in the preseason and aggravated it in the Broncos’ Oct. 20 loss in Indianapolis, has played in just two games this season. It appears unlikely he will play this weekend, but the Broncos are holding out hope for the Nov. 17 game against Kansas City.

“We’re trying to be smart,’’ Del Rio said on Bailey. “He is working back, he is working on the side and we’re going to increase. At some point he’s going to rejoin us, but you can’t rush that kind of thing.’’