Jack Dempsey, AP
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — As expected, Denver Broncos slot receiver Wes Welker was officially ruled out of this weekend's game at Houston.
He's also expected to be held out of the Broncos' regular-season finale at Oakland on Dec. 29 as a precaution against a third head injury this month, which would end his season.
The Broncos (11-3) are hoping to gain home-field advantage in the playoffs and a first-round bye that would give Welker more than a month's rest.
He hasn't played since leaving the Broncos' Dec. 8 game against Tennessee shortly before halftime with his second concussion in a three-week span. He was cleared Thursday to resume light workouts.
Welker has a career-high 10 touchdown catches on 73 receptions for 778 yards in his first season in Denver after six years as Tom Brady's favorite target in New England.
Bubba Caldwell started in his place last week against San Diego with Eric Decker moving over to the slot. Caldwell caught six passes for 59 yards and two TDs, his first multi-score game of his six-year NFL career.
But the Broncos, who are averaging 38.2 points a game, also had their lowest output of the season in a 27-20 loss to the Chargers.
Also ruled out against the Texans (2-12) was rookie cornerback Kayvon Webster, who had surgery Monday to repair two fractures in his right thumb.
"Everything is good," coach John Fox said. "He missed this week just because he is recovering from an actual surgery. You don't want to risk any kind of infection. Players' health and safety first. But I think next week there is more of an opportunity in a cast that he could be able to play."
Webster first told the Broncos medical staff of his injury after tackling Chargers running back Ryan Mathews following a 1-yard catch on the fourth play of the third quarter, but Webster revealed Friday that he actually injured his thumb covering a punt in the first half and played through the swelling and pain before letting anyone know he was hurt. Even then, he never came out.
After the game, X-rays revealed two breaks and the following day he needed an operation in which seven pins and five screws were inserted. He was told he'll be in a cast for four weeks, he said.
Webster said he's been doing field work on his own and intends to return to practice Wednesday and not miss any more games.
Also, defensive end Derek Wolfe will miss his fourth straight game as he continues his recovery after suffering what the team called seizure-like symptoms on the bus ride to the airport Nov. 29.
The Broncos signed former Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Jeremy Mincey this week to shore up their defensive front and help hold the edges that were exposed in their loss to San Diego in which the Chargers ran for more than 100 yards on first down.
Mincey was released by the Jaguars Friday after a falling out with the front office that gave him a four-year, $20 million contract last year when he was coming off an eight-sack season.
The Broncos feel that Mincey will be rejuvenated by his second chance in Denver, where he was greeted by familiar faces in defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, his former head coach whom he thrived under in Jacksonville, and former Jaguars run-stuffer Terrance Knighton.
Notes: Sunday's game marks the first early kickoff (12 p.m. CST) for the Broncos since Nov. 25, 2012, ending a stretch of 20 straight games in which they had the late or prime-time kickoff. Therefore, the Broncos flew out a day early on Friday.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org
Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton
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