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Wes Welker eligible, but not active

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- With the NFL Players Association voting in favor of a new drug policy, wide receiver Wes Welker will be eligible to return to the Denver Broncos, a source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.

However, a league spokesman told ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen that "there continue to be significant unresolved issues" with the drug policy. Sources told Mortensen that one such issue is whether players reinstated immediately would be eligible to play Sunday and Monday.

As of the 4 p.m. ET Saturday deadline for players to be activated, Welker was not on the Broncos' active roster, and will not play against the Kansas City Chiefs.

As negotiations went through the week between NFL and NFLPA officials, the Broncos had planned for a potential change in the drug policy that would allow for Welker's reinstatement. The Broncos carried just 52 players on the roster through the week after they released wide receiver Nathan Palmer on Tuesday.

Following Broncos practice Friday, coach John Fox said the team was ready to welcome Welker back whenever an agreement was in place.

"They'll work that out, at which time, if there's any kind of decision, we'll accept Wes back whenever that is," Fox said following Friday's practice. " ... We'll see."

Welker was suspended four games for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing drugs and served the first game of the suspension Sunday. However, Broncos officials and players have believed since last week a new policy would change the criteria of Welker's suspension and allow for the reinstatement of Welker and several others players around the league.

Welker had been limited in practice at the time of his league-mandated punishment because of a concussion he suffered in the Aug. 23 preseason game against the Houston Texans. The concussion was Welker's third in a 10-month span, but Welker has been cleared medically by an independent physician per the league's concussion protocol, so he would be eligible to play immediately.

Welker has not practiced since Labor Day and was limited in that workout. That practice was also Welker's first appearance on the practice field since suffering the injury against the Texans.

Earlier this week, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning said he had been in contact with Welker and said, "I know he's chomping at the bit to get back. I know he's here in town, obviously it would be great to get him back; we'll just see how the process -- see how it all shakes out.''

Welker's chance at reinstatement came because, under the new policy, Welker's positive test for amphetamines would now fall under the league's policy for substance abuse. Under those guidelines, a player enters the treatment program with the first positive test, a program that includes meeting with counselors; the player is also subject to increased testing each month.

It takes multiple positive tests under the substance abuse policy before the suspension phase is reached. For Welker's suspension, his positive test had fallen under the PED policy, which put players into the suspension phase with the first positive test.

Under his original suspension, Welker would have been eligible to return to the team Monday, Oct. 6, and then would have played for the first time in the Oct. 12 game against the New York Jets.