Denver receiver Wes Welker did not do anything wrong as far as the NFL is concerned and will not be disciplined for the hit that knocked New England cornerback Aqib Talib out of Sunday’s AFC championship game with a knee injury.
“It was a legal hit,” vice president of officiating Dean Blandino said on the NFL Network on Wednesday night.
Welker appeared to collide with Talib a split-second before a pass from Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning went off the hands of Patriots receiver Demaryius Thomas nearby. Blandino said the officials were correct in not throwing a flag.
“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,” Blandino said, noting that 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 added he expects the play to be examined by the league’s competition committee during the off-season to see whether the rules should be changed.
On Monday, less than 24 hours after the Broncos’ 23-13 win, Patriots Coach Bill Belichick called it “a deliberate play by the receiver to take out Aqib, no attempt to get open” and “one of the worst plays I’ve seen.”
Welker has said the contact was accidental.