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NFL notes: Wes Welker practices for first time since Dec. 8

WES WELKER: Returned to practice

NFL/Associated Press

WES WELKER: Returned to practice

Broncos wideout Wes Welker returned to the practice field Wednesday for the first time since suffering his second concussion on Dec. 8.

While it is unlikely that Welker will play against Oakland (4-11) on Sunday, he was allowed to participate on a limited basis according to the league’s concussion protocol.

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‘‘It was good to see him out there,’’ coach John Fox said.

Denver (12-3) has struggled to convert third downs since losing Welker just before halftime during a 51-28 win over Tennessee three weeks ago.

‘‘Yeah, we'd like to stay on the field more,’’ quarterback Peyton Manning said. ‘‘That’s definitely a point of emphasis that we can improve on.’’

Also returning to practice was defensive end Derek Wolfe, who hadn’t practiced since having a seizure-like episode on the team bus trip to the airport Nov. 29 before the Broncos flew to Kansas City.

‘‘Football is a unique game in that you can try to simulate different things in the weight room and different areas, but until you get out there and start running around playing, it’s not quite the same,’’ Fox said. ‘‘So he’s back out there.

“We've got everything under control. Now it’s just a matter of him getting back into football shape.’’

Tony Romo still not ruled out

With Tony Romo’s status in doubt because of a herniated disk in his back, Kyle Orton (left) could make his first start in two years for Dallas.

Brandon Wade/Associated Press/File

With Tony Romo’s status in doubt because of a herniated disk in his back, Kyle Orton (left) could make his first start in two years for Dallas.

Kyle Orton will make his first start at quarterback in his two seasons with the Cowboys Sunday night, unless Tony Romo can recover from a herniated disk. Dallas (8-7) will be playing a winner-take-all game at home against the Philadelphia Eagles (9-6) for the NFC East title.

Romo was nowhere to be seen in any of the public areas Wednesday at Valley Ranch in Irving, Texas. He did not practice, and didn’t attend a morning offensive meeting, according to coach Jason Garrett.

Garrett still hasn’t ruled out Romo.

‘‘I saw him briefly today,” said Garrett. “He’s fighting through it. He’s doing everything he can to get back. He’s going through the rehab process. We'll evaluate him day to day, the same as most players who are injured.’’

Asked whether he thought Romo would play, Garrett said, ‘‘We'll have to see. It seems like he is feeling a little bit better.’’

According to an ESPN.com report, Dallas linebacker Sean Lee will miss the Eagles game. Lee is suffering from a sprained neck and doctors have not cleared him to practice.

Clay Matthews sidelined

Packers linebacker Clay Matthews will miss Sunday’s game against the Bears (8-7) for the NFC North title after aggravating a right thumb injury.

Green Bay (7-7-1) didn’t practice Wednesday but issued an injury report. Matthews was listed as out.

Matthews got hurt during a sack in last Sunday’s 38-31 loss to the Steelers. Matthews missed four games earlier this season after initially breaking the thumb in October.

Matthews looked to be in extreme pain on the sideline Sunday after the sack. Coach Mike McCarthy has described it as a ‘‘repeat injury.’’

The Packers return to practice Thursday, when the team is also expected to announce whether quarterback Aaron Rodgers is ready to return from a left collarbone injury.

Kenny Vaccaro lands on IR

The Saints placed rookie safety Kenny Vaccaro on injured reserve. Vaccaro broke his left ankle last Sunday in New Orleans’s loss at Carolina. The Saints signed safety Terrence Frederick off of Cleveland’s practice squad . . . Saints quarterback Drew Brees said he is fine with coach Sean Payton’s commitment to stick with rookie left tackle Terron Armstead against Tampa Bay this Sunday. Armstead gave up three sacks and was called for two false starts in the loss to Carolina . . . Steelers wideout Emmanuel Sanders could play against the Browns if his balky knee responds to treatment. Pittsburgh needs to win and have Baltimore, Miami, and San Diego lose in order to make the playoffs . . . Chargers running back Ryan Mathews is expected to play against the Chiefs despite missing practice because of an injured left ankle . . . The Lions placed tight end Brandon Pettigrew on injured reserve. He injured an ankle in a Dec. 16 loss to Baltimore and has not practiced or played since.

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