When it comes to the matter of Bill Belichick vs. Wes Welker, the NFL is coming down squarely on the side of the Denver Broncos wide receiver.
A hit by Welker that took New England Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib out of the AFC championship game caused Belichick, his former coach, to call him out, saying “It was a deliberate play by the receiver to take out Aqib. No attempt to get open. I’ll let the league handle the discipline on that play, it’s not for me to decide. It’s one of the worst plays I’ve seen.” On Wednesday night, NFL Vice President of Officiating Dean Blandino did indeed handle it, saying “it was a legal hit” on the NFL Network.
There was no flag on the play and the league will not hand down any discipline.
“The first potential foul would be for offensive pass interference; a receiver can’t block downfield before the ball is touched, so the timing is important,” he said. “The contact occurs, the ball is touched almost simultaneously. We don’t have a foul for pass interference.
“The other thing, is it unnecessary roughness? Under the current rules it isn’t. It’s not late; Talib wasn’t out of the play. Unfortunately there was an injury, so just like in other situations when an injury does occur, the competition committee will take a look at this and determine if there needs to be a change. But under the current rules, this is a legal play.”
With Talib out of the game with a knee injury, the Broncos shifted into a higher gear and went on to win 26-16. Belichick spoke Monday, the day after that loss, and also remains clearly irked with Welker, whom he called only “the receiver.” Belichick, the Boston Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy wrote, “hates Wes Welker with the power of 1,000 suns. Belichick blames Welker for dropping a pass that cost him a Super Bowl ring two years ago. He didn’t like Welker’s foot jokes about Rex Ryan and he didn’t like Welker saying, “It’s always nice to stick it in Bill’s face.’ ”
That added a nasty personal element.
“We talked about the situation and the play,” Blandino said, “and obviously there is a difference of opinion there and something that we’ll continue to look at during the offseason.”