Welker still could be back for camp

Recovering wide receiver Wes Welker was placed on the active/physically unable to perform list by the Patriots on Tuesday.

Welker, whose recovery from February surgery to repair a torn left ACL has been on schedule, can come off the list at any time. Once camp starts and a player practices, that player can't be added to the PUP list.

Although it was reported recently that Welker would be ready to participate in training camp from the first day, this indicates that the Patriots' medical staff might not have fully cleared him yet.

It doesn't mean that Welker won't be on the field when camp opens, but it gives the Patriots more roster flexibility -- and a chance to evaluate other receivers -- in case they decide to take it slowly and not have Welker practicing at the start of camp.

Welker had surgery in February after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee on the fourth offensive play of a 34-27 loss at Houston in the regular-season finale. He also damaged his medial collateral ligament, which didn't require surgery, on the play when he planted his left leg after making his NFL-leading 123rd catch of the season.

Welker missed the Patriots only playoff game, a 33-14 loss at home to the Baltimore Ravens in which New England trailed 24-0 in the first quarter.

But exactly four months after undergoing surgery, he took part in agility drills and caught passes while wearing a brace on his knee during the team's organized team activities on June 2.

"I didn't think it'd be that big a deal," Welker said after a similar session five days later. "I've been pushing it and trying to get ready and get out there with my teammates, get a few reps and try and get better as much as we can."

Without Welker, whose 346 receptions during the past three seasons were the most in the NFL, the Patriots used rookie Julian Edelman in his slot receiver spot in the playoff game. Randy Moss is the other starting wide receiver.

In the offseason, New England signed free agent wide receivers Torry Holt, who had 51 catches with Jacksonville last season, and David Patten, who played for the Patriots from 2001 through 2004 but sat out the 2009 season after being released by Cleveland during training camp.

In addition to Welker, the Patriots placed third-year outside linebacker Shawn Crable and rookie defensive lineman Kade Weston on the active/PUP list.

By placing the players on the active/PUP list, the Patriots leave open the possibility that Welker, Crable and Weston could ultimately land on the reserve/physically unable to perform list. The reserve/PUP list is different than the active/PUP list in that a player would be forced to miss at least the first six weeks of the regular season.

Mike Reiss covers the Patriots for ESPNBoston.com. Follow him on Twitter. Information from The Associate Press contributed to this report.