FOXBORO, Mass. — For the umpteenth time, Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker made strides during his recovery from a torn ACL in his left knee.
Welker participated in 11-on-11s against the Saints defense Tuesday, which was a mildly surprising turn of events. Welker has been taking part in those drills against his own defense, but the Patriots understand they need to be looking out for the highly-valuable wideout.
The Saints, meanwhile, probably don?t care all that much, but Welker doesn?t think it will be an issue.
"I think we're all pros out here," Welker said. "This is practice. We're going to take care of each other, but at the same time, you don?t know these guys so you don?t know if they're going to try to thud you, or if they're clumsy or what's going to happen. For the most part, I'm not too worried about it."
There was plenty of contact during the teams' first joint session, but the tackling is limited. More often than not, defenders will just touch up on the ball carrier, but it's not always completely possible to avoid laying a hit on a guy. Plus, as the practices wear on, the tempers will flare up, and that could lead to some more violent hits on the field.
Either way, Welker said he's happy with the progress he has made since suffering the injury during the Patriots' 2009 regular-season finale in Houston. He said he still has to feel completely confident about making that same cut move that he used against the Texans, which involves really planting his foot into the ground and springing in another direction to avoid a hit.
So, the mental hurdles are still there, and Welker has also said he has a ways to go before he is 100 percent physically. Welker wouldn?t comment on whether or not he'll play Thursday in the preseason opener against the Saints, instead deferring the decision to the medical staff and coaches.
For the time being, Welker keeps plugging along. He's been through some good days and bad days. But as long as he's on the football field, those bad days can't be all that awful, relatively speaking.
"It's an ACL injury, so it's going to be frustrating," Welker said. "You've just got to push through it, come back the next time, hope it's better and continue to build on it."