Patriots coach Bill Belichick isn’t the only member of the organization who thinks former Patriots receiver Wes Welker deliberately targeted cornerback Aqib Talib on Sunday. Pats defensive end Andre Carter also believes the hit appeared to something other than accidental.
“Unfortunately, that was nasty,” Carter said, via the Boston Globe, of the contact that some would say was a block and others would say was an illegal pick. “I’m sure the NFL will review that and see what they can do to rectify those particular plays. Fortunately, Talib was able to walk, but if it got a lot more serious, who knows what would’ve happened?
“If you step into the wrong place at the wrong time, it can be very devastating. 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.”
Carter seemed to be trying to measure his words carefully, but he ultimately spilled conflicting statements and opinions all over the place.
“Was [Welker] doing his job? I’m sure he was, to a certain degree,” Carter said. “Do I think the hit could have been cleaner? Yes. 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.”
Based on the rulebook, the play at worst amount to offensive pass interference. At best, it was entirely legal.
It was a clean block. There was no helmet-to-helmet hit, and no one could claim that Welker violated unwritten rules by diving at Talib’s knees. On passing plays, blocking of defensive players becomes a foul only if the block occurs while the ball is in the air. In this specific case, it appeared that Welker hit Talib just as the ball was being touched (and ultimately dropped) by the receiver.
If Welker delivered the hit at or after the moment the ball was touched, there’s no foul. If Welker hit Talib early, it’s offensive pass interference — not unnecessary roughness or any other misconduct that would make Welker eligible for league discipline.
Those realities of the rulebook make Belichick’s comments about Welker even more jarring. Belichick made strong allegations of dirty play against his former player in a public forum, unprompted by any question.
If anyone hears from the league office on this one, it’s far more likely to be Belichick than Welker.