Wes Welker takes part in contact drills

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker took another step forward in his return from surgery to repair his torn left ACL, participating in full-pads, full-team drills for the first time on Thursday morning.

While the Patriots have not had live tackling through 14 training camp practices, Welker did absorb his first contact, on the receiving end of two hits from linebacker Jerod Mayo in 11-on-11 drills.

Welker got back up both times with no issues.

On the second hit, Welker (5-foot-9, 185 pounds) was running across the middle, from left to right, and caught the ball in the area that Mayo was standing. His momentum led him directly into Mayo (6-1, 245), causing him to fall to the ground with a thud, the crackling sound of shoulder pads easily heard by the thousands in attendance.

He returned to practice earlier this week after being removed from the PUP list but Thursday marked the first time Welker was subject to contact.

Welker tore his ACL on Jan. 3, in the Patriots' regular season finale against the Houston Texans.

His status for the team's season opener on Sept. 12 against the Cincinnati Bengals is still unknown, but taking contact further strengthens the possibility that he will be on the field for that game.

Mike Reiss covers the Patriots for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter.