By all accounts—his own, his teams’, and a top NFL-affiliated concussion specialist’s—Wes Welker is healthy and ready to play. St. Louis badly needs a receiver. Still, when the Rams announced they signed Welker to bolster their etiolated passing attack, my first reaction was disappointment. It’s a strange feeling, to hope that Wes Welker—a talented WR and by all accounts a decent guy—never plays football again.
It’s the concussions. At least six official ones in his career, maybe as many as 10. (That doesn’t count the ones he may not even know about.) He suffered three in nine months with the Broncos, leading one former teammate to publicly declare he wanted Welker to retire. The thing about concussions is that the more you’ve had, the more likely you are to receive more. Welker’s brain is especially fragile and vulnerable. If teams avoided signing the still-useful receiver this offseason solely because of his concussion history—and some very specifically did—it wasn’t necessarily just the potential bad PR in a sport that claims to take brain trauma very seriously. It was legitimate concern for Welker’s well-being.