Wes Welker on track to face Pats

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Denver Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker, recovering from a concussion, is on track to play Sunday night against the New England Patriots.

Welker continued to clear medical hurdles, participating in Thursday's practice on a limited basis. Barring a setback in the coming days, he should face his former team.

"I love playing the game, especially in big atmospheres like this,'' Welker said. "I'm doing everything possible on my end to get an opportunity to play in it.''

Welker progressed through the league's concussion protocol from a cognitive test Monday to limited exercise Tuesday and Wednesday. If he meets all the guidelines, he could practice fully Friday for the first time this week.

"I just hope for the best, let the doctors and trainers do their thing in terms of time frame whenever he can get back," interim coach Jack Del Rio said.

Welker suffered a concussion on a 20-yard catch-and-run play in this past Sunday's win over the Kansas City Chiefs. He left the field, returned for four plays and made one more catch, then was pulled from the remainder of the game.

"I just know he took a nasty hit," offensive coordinator Adam Gase said. "It was great to see him out there again [Thursday]."

After sitting out Wednesday, quarterback Peyton Manning also returned to practice Thursday and took his usual work with the starters. Manning, who has been dealing with a high sprain in his right ankle, ran the starting offense as a full participant in the workout.

Manning has been held out of practice in three of the past four Wednesdays. It is a schedule Manning and Del Rio have said the team may use with the 37-year-old quarterback if the feeling is he would benefit more from a day off than taking part at less than 100 percent.

With snow and a temperature of 16 degrees, the Broncos practiced outside Thursday and Del Rio said "we did everything'' in the practice, calling it a "nice, cool day."

Tight end Julius Thomas (right knee), tight end Joel Dreessen (left knee) and cornerback Champ Bailey (left foot) practiced on a limited basis. Dreessen and Thomas had been held out of Thursday's practice.