Welker participates with knee in brace

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- When Wes Welker was spotted on the field at Patriots organized team activities Wednesday, it was a mild surprise. Oftentimes, recovering players are present at the start of practice for stretching before heading to the sideline.

But it was what happened after stretching that was unexpected.

Welker went through agility drills with the team's receivers, stepping over bags at a rapid pace and navigating his way around orange cones placed on the ground. He later caught passes from quarterback Tom Brady, at one point running about three-quarters speed, stopping abruptly, and then turning to make a reception.

Welker, who underwent surgery to repair a torn ACL in his left knee on Feb. 2, left the practice after about 20 minutes, moving to the team's indoor facility, presumably to work with members of the team's strength and training staff.

His presence at the early part of practice caught the eye of fellow receiver Randy Moss.

"It's very impressive to me," Moss said. "I'm a big fan of Welker's, way before he came here, back when he was in Miami. So I can't wait to have him back on the field, whenever that day comes. Sky is the limit, so we'll see what happens."

Welker, who wore a brace over the left knee, did not speak with reporters after the session. In prior interviews, he has resisted setting a timetable on when he might return to action, saying that his recovery has gone as well as can be expected.

"It's a long process but I feel like I'm making a lot of strides," Welker said on May 22.

His presence on the practice field reflected that.

While Welker did not cut as sharply as he normally would, that is to be expected given his surgery was performed just about four months ago.

Welker has split his offseason between California and Massachusetts. In California, he worked out with Brady once or twice each week. He plans on staying around the team through at least mandatory minicamp June 15-17.

Should Welker not be ready for the season opener Sept. 12 against the Cincinnati Bengals, second-year receiver Julian Edelman (37 catches in 2009) is the top candidate to be elevated on the depth chart.

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