The NFL’s Vice President of Officiating, Dean Blandino, has now officially come out and said that Broncos receiver Wes Welker’s hit on Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib during the AFC Championship Game was legal, and there will be no discipline for the matter. Welker’s blindsided shot on Talib sent him out for the rest of the game and some thought it should have drawn a flag and potentially a fine.
The hit came in the second quarter as Talib was running from left to right to stay with Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas. Welker, coming from the right, collided with Talib just before Peyton Manning’s pass bounced off Thomas’s hands. Talib left the game with knee and rib injuries and did not return.
Blandino’s assessment was definitive:
It was a legal hit. 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. (As) 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.
Blandino did say he expects the league’s competition committee to look at the play and possibly consider if a rule change needs to be made, since an injury occurred. But under the current rules he was adamant that Welker’s hit was legal.
On Monday, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick ripped Welker claiming that the hit was “one of the worst plays” he’d seen in his coaching career. He didn’t mention his former receiver by name, but said it was a deliberate shot to take Talib out and that Welker made no attempt to get open.