Thursday, January 23, 2014

NFL clears Broncos' Welker: "It was a legal hit"

The National Football League today issued it's verdict in the crunching hit put on New England Patriots' cornerback Aqib Talib by Denver Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker - and it wasn't what Patriots' coach Bill Belichick wanted to hear.

"It was a legal hit." Dean Blandino, the NFL's vice president of officiating, announced during a segment of NFL Network's NFL Total Access.

Of course, in the letter of the law it was legal so no fines or suspensions will be forthcoming against the diminutive ex-Patriots' slot receiver, but that doesn't mean that the story is going to go away.

On Monday morning, a casually dressed and unusually calm looking Belichick, who had the opportunity to sleep on the subject before addressing the media, did so, and with out prompting but with direct promulgation started his customary press conference monologue by calling out Welker for purposely taking out his best cover corner with a vicious pick...

...calling Welker's hit that knocked Talib out of the game "a deliberate play by the receiver to take out Aqib. No attempt to get open," then qualifying his statement with, "It's one of the worst plays I've seen."

Belichick also prompted the league by saying he'd let them handle the discipline, while Denver coach John Fox responded by saying  "We were not doing anything with intent.", then taking a jab at Belichick, to the laughter of beat reporters,"Our receivers always try to get open."

Just about every writer and fan in the civilized world and parts of Maine have issued their opinion, the vast majority of them favoring the receiver that Fox calls "a great player, (with) high integrity,", but those who have a dissenting opinion have been heard from as well.

"It was really uncalled for," Seattle Seahawks' cornerback Walter Thurmond said after watching the replay. "The receiver ran right into the guy. I don't know the extent of the injury Talib had, but I thought we were supposed to protect football players in this league now. I guess not. I guess that only goes one way."

Which gets to the crux of the matter.  Receivers are protected by rules that penalize a defensive player for hitting a defenseless receiver - there are fines and suspensions awaiting those who do.  Talib was concentrating on receiver Demaryius Thomas when Welker skirted by his teammate and slammed into Talib, forcing the corner from the game.

Jim Leonard of the Buffalo Bills quipped that it appeared that Welker was on a "Suicide Mission".

In a criminal law case, part of the prosecution's tasks is to prove that the accused intended to commit the crime, intended to injure - and no one can say for sure what Welker's intentions were.  But the National Football League doesn't have to prove intent, just whether the action broke one of their rules...

...and in the spirit of the rule, Welker is clean.

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