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Welker, Manning in perfect harmony

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Wes Welker and Peyton Manning remain in perfect rhythm even after a month apart.

At least, that's what the Denver Broncos' receiver reported after practice Thursday.

"I felt like we were kind of on the same page," said Welker, who is returning from a concussion he sustained Dec. 8 against Tennessee -- his second in a four-game span.

Hardly a surprise, since they've been in sync all season, with Welker catching a career-high 10 touchdown passes.

Lately, though, Manning has been without his security blanket as Welker sat out the final three games of the regular season.

This first-round bye gives Welker and Manning more time to re-establish their rapport.

Not that they really need it. More like fine-tune it.

"I feel like we've been around the league long enough, where we know each other's thinking and can get on the same page and ready to go," said Welker, whose team will host Kansas City, Indianapolis or San Diego on Jan. 12 in the AFC divisional round. "Hopefully, keep it rolling and just keep it going."

With Welker sidelined, Manning had a chance to work receiver Andre "Bubba" Caldwell and tight end Jacob Tamme into the pass-catching rotation. Two more threats for an offence that scored an NFL-record 606 points this season.

"The more weapons we can have, the more guys out there making plays, the better off we're going to be," Welker said. "We're going to need everybody here through the stretch and everybody stepping up and making plays when we need to."

That starts with a healthy Welker, who returned to practice on a limited basis last week and was fully cleared Monday.

"I feel good," he said. "I feel fine. I feel ready to go."

Still, there are those who are concerned about Welker's return, especially since he's suffered two concussions in a short amount of time. He sustained a concussion against Kansas City on Nov. 17 but didn't sit out any games. He was concussed again just before halftime in the Broncos' win against the Titans last month.

And while he appreciates all the worry, he insisted he indeed is good to go.

"I think we've taken a lot more action than what we would have in the past with this whole ordeal," said Welker, who is in his first season with Denver after spending the last six years catching passes from Tom Brady in New England. "I feel like we've taken enough time. It will be five weeks from the day I had any contact at all."

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 3, 2014 C6

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