New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is known for his bland press conferences, but what he had to say Monday, Jan. 20, didn't fit that description.
Updates from Friday, Jan. 24
Welker won't be fined for the hit, according to Ben Volin of the Boston Globe:
Not surprisingly, Wes Welker was not fined for his hit on Aqib Talib last Sunday. No fines to report from the Pats-Broncos game— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) January 24, 2014
Coming off a 26-16 loss to the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship Game, Belichick called out ex-Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker for a pulverizing hit in the first half that knocked New England's top cornerback, Aqib Talib, out for the rest of the game.
Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio reported what Belichick had to say about the play:
It is a deliberate play by the receiver to take out Aqib. No attempt to get open. And I’ll let the league handle the discipline on that play. It’s not for me to decide, but it’s one of the worst plays I’ve seen. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.
NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reports that the NFL views the play as legal:
NFL head of refs Dean Blandino on the Welker/Talib play: “Under the current rules, this is a legal play.” More on Total Access…— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 22, 2014
Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald noted the coach's mention of the play came unprovoked and in his opening statement:
Belichick's rip of Welker came during his opening statement, too. Wasn't a response to a question.— Jeff Howe (@jeffphowe) January 20, 2014
Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman observed how much of a deviation this was from typical Belichick conferences:
Belichick is right about Welker hit. Dead on.— mike freeman (@mikefreemanNFL) January 20, 2014
Belichick is NEVER this strongly opinionated publicly about anything. If he feels this strongly, something to it.— mike freeman (@mikefreemanNFL) January 20, 2014
Chris Mortensen of ESPN is reporting that the initial review of the play has sided with Welker:
Told by league source that initial review supports Welker on legal play vs. Talib.— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) January 20, 2014
On Sunday, Jan. 19, WEEI.com reported what Welker said about the game-changing hit. He implied that he wasn't attempting to knock Talib out of the game:
It was one of those plays where it’s kind of a rough play, and I was trying to get him to go over the top, and I think he was thinking the same thing and wanted to come underneath and we just kind of collided. It wasn’t a deal where I was trying to hit him or anything like that...I hope he’s OK — he’s a great player and a big part of their defense.
Andre Carter of the Patriots also discussed the play (via Michael Vega of The Boston Globe):
Carter said pick plays are commonplace in the league, but he said what made Welker's particularly "nasty"' was because of "the level of impact and the level of force," of the hit.
"If you step into the wrong place at the wrong time, it can be very devastating," Carter said. "It looked like it was intentional. But the NFL will review it and, hopefully, Talib will just heal and get ready for the following season.
"People will say it was dirty and people will say it was nasty. I can't really say it was uncalled for, but the play was unacceptable. At the end of the day, they won and we're moving forward."
John Fox responded to the allegations on Monday, via Lindsay Jones of USA Today:
Fox: "I know Wes Welker is a great player. High integrity. We were not doing anything with intent."— Lindsay Jones (@bylindsayhjones) January 20, 2014
Bob Glauber of Newsday alluded to how much Talib's replacement, Logan Ryan, struggled as Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning threw for 400 yards and two touchdowns:
CB Aqib Talib has knee injury, return questionable. Initially announced as a rib injury. Either way, his replacement, Logan Ryan, scuffling.— Bob Glauber (@BobGlauber) January 19, 2014
Neither Ryan nor Alfonzo Dennard could cover Denver's receivers on the outside without Talib in the lineup—particularly Demaryius Thomas, who led the Broncos with seven receptions for 134 yards and a score.
ESPN Boston's Field Yates reported what Talib said after the game and how he was frustrated about being unable to return to the action.
Talib opts to answer questions. On how close he was to returning: "If I could've played I would, man." Called situation "very difficult."— Field Yates (@FieldYates) January 19, 2014
Was Wes Welker's hit on Aqib Talib dirty?
It's interesting to ponder how Talib's impact as one of the premier cover cornerbacks in the NFL would have altered the outcome of the AFC title game. This marks the second straight loss for the Patriots on the cusp of a Super Bowl, with Talib being banged up in both contests.
Whether or not Welker's play was dirty, he did rob New England of its primary force in the secondary to combat the explosive Manning-led offense. It ultimately cost the Patriots a shot at advancing to Super Bowl XLVIII.