New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick ripped Denver Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker earlier this week for what he emphatically claimed was an illegal hit on cornerback Aqib Talib during the AFC Championship, saying he "would let the league handle the discipline on that play."
There will be no league discipline. NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino said Thursday that Welker's collision with Talib "was a legal hit," according to Mike Reiss of ESPN.com.
Belichick alleged on Monday that the play, which knocked Talib out of the game with an injury, was intentional, and called it "one of the worst plays" he's ever seen.
Blandino explained why the league deemed the hit above board:
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. 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.
The two players collided on a pass play during the second quarter of the Broncos' win. As he ran a shallow cross over the middle of the field, Welker ran headlong into Talib, who was coming from the opposite side in coverage of Demaryius Thomas. Intentionally or not, the hit sprang Thomas wide open underneath, though Peyton Manning's pass bounced off his chest.
"It was a deliberate play by the receiver to take out Aqib," a perturbed Belichick said during a Monday morning news conference the day after the Broncos knocked the Patriots out of the playoffs. "No attempt to get open."
The Broncos took full advantage of Talib's exit, as Thomas would go on to post seven catches for 134 yards and a touchdown.