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What do we think of Wes Welker now?

COMMENTARY — The former Heritage Hall standout will miss the Broncos’ first four games this season because of a violation of the NFL’s performance-enhancing drugs policy. But the cloud of his violation doesn’t overshadow all the good that he has done and will continue to do in Oklahoma City.
by Jenni Carlson Published: September 3, 2014

Shannon Hayes heard the news about the Wes Welker suspension.

He also heard the crashes and clinks of the new equipment in Millwood High School’s weight room.

What does the latter have to do with the former?

Plenty.

Hayes is the athletic director at Millwood, and earlier this year, the school received a grant from the Welker Foundation that, among other things, allowed it to add to the weight room. Every athlete at the school will use it at some point during the year. Every athlete will benefit from that grant.

“It puts us in a whole different league,” Hayes said of the additional funds.

The folks at Millwood aren’t the only ones in Oklahoma City who’ve become fans of Welker, on the cusp of his 11th season in the NFL. He gives lots of money here. He spends lots of time here. He does lots of good here.

The hometown boy has made his hometown proud.

Then on Tuesday, he got suspended by the NFL for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drugs policy — the wide receiver must sit out Denver’s first four games — and everyone in Oklahoma City is left trying to figure out how we’re supposed to look at Welker now. How do we wrap our heads around the good guy getting a black mark? How are we supposed to balance this first transgression with what we know of Welker?

The NFL doesn’t provide details when it suspends a player, but reports have indicated that Welker had amphetamines in his system. The Denver Post reported the amphetamine was Adderall, while Pro Football Talk reported that while attending the Kentucky Derby, Welker took Molly that had been cut with amphetamines.

Molly is the street name for MDMA, which is an active ingredient in Ecstasy. But Molly is rarely pure MDMA. It is most often cut by amphetamines, which could include Adderall.

Welker was adamant Tuesday that he never took anything knowingly, telling the Denver Post that he wondered if someone put something in one of his drinks at the Derby.

“I wouldn’t have any idea where to get a Molly or what a Molly is,” he said.

We want to believe that.

I’ll admit, I want to believe that.

But what if Welker had grown up in Kansas City or Cleveland or San Francisco? What if he wasn’t our guy and we were reading his denials in Oklahoma City?

We’d laugh and roll our eyes and say, “Just another athlete making an excuse.”

Listen, I don’t know what happened, if Welker knowingly took something that he should’nt have or if someone trying to be a wisenheimer got him suspended. But I know this — this suspension puts a cloud over Welker.

A massive, ominous thunderhead?

No.

More of a stray, gray nimbostratus.

After all, this isn’t an arrest, isn’t Welker doing something that harms someone else. What’s more, this is very much out of character for him.

Welker has been a straight-and-narrow character, and that has only added to his feel-good story. The undersized guy who became a superstar at Heritage Hall. The lightly recruited receiver who became an All-American at Texas Tech. The undrafted free agent who became one of the most productive receivers the NFL has ever seen.

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by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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