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Pro Football Weekly's Eric Edholm brings you hot news and the inside scoop about the NFL.

Welker's health one of the more intriguing stories heading into camps

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By Eric Edholm

The Patriots remain a big story in today's NFL. Wes Welker remains one of their more vital offensive pieces.

That's why reports of Welker's health are so fascinating heading into Patriots training camp, which opens July 28 for veterans.

All indications are that Welker is ready to go, unburdened by the torn ACL and MCL he suffered in the Week 17 loss at Houston that kept him out of the Patriots' playoff loss the following week to the Ravens at home.

If true, it's a remarkable comeback. Most players at this stage after the injury are just now getting back to planting and hard cutting on grass and would not be ready for contact untiil further down the line. We should similarly laud new Giants LB Keith Bulluck, 33, for his equally impressive comeback from ACL surgery.

This is not a fantasy forum (read Michael Blunda's fine work on the fantasy blog for that), but I almost can bet the farm that Welker will not be the 123-catch guy he was last season (or perhaps even the 111- or 112-catch player he was the previous two seasons) in 2010. I just can't imagine him being completely back to the level he was pre-injury.

That said, he could be in the 85-90 catch range, which is remarkable for any wide receiver, no matter the offense. Only 10 NFL players had 85 or more receptions last season, even in this era of high-volume passing.

I think the injury is only one factor that will prevent him from reaching the century mark. I believe the Patriots' surrounding cast is better. Second-year WRs Julian Edelman and Brandon Tate should take a step up, and rookie TEs Aaron Hernandez and Rog Gronkowski will make last season's overlooked position a better receiving unit. I also believe the Patriots will run the ball more than they have the past few seasons.

But Welker, provided he stays healthy and can make it through the season, remains a viable weapon. And a surprisingly fast healer. Impressive stuff.

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