If you thought the relationship between Bill Belichick and Wes Welker was damaged before this weekend, the Patriots coach left little doubt about it today.
Belichick conducted his season-ending news conference this morning at Gillette Stadium, and he unleashed on Welker toward the end of his opening statement. Welker knocked cornerback Aqib Talib out of yesterday's AFC Championship Game while contacting him during a pick route. Welker went low on Talib to block him out of Demaryius Thomas' lane, and Talib suffered a knee injury that forced him out of the rest of the game.
Belichick was asked yesterday if he believed the hit was malicious, but he didn't want to answer until he watched the replay. Today, Belichick responded in a loud manner.
"I was asked about the hit on Talib, and I feel badly for Aqib," Belichick said. "The way that play turned out, I went back and watched it, which I didn't have a chance to do yesterday. It was 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. That's all I'll say about that."
An NFL spokesman told the Herald the league will review the play for a fine, just as it reviews every play for potential discipline. Fines are announced on Fridays.
Belichick was irate on the sideline after the play, possibly because Michael Hoomanawanui was flagged for offensive pass interference for a pick play on the previous possession and Welker never drew a penalty of his own. Here was Belichick's response after the game.
“As it turned out, that was a key play in the game,” Belichick said. “If you take a look at it on the replay, I thought it was a key play in the game. I’ll have to take a look at it on the film. It was a key play in the game. I’ll say he’s a key player for us.”
Talib was also asked after the game if he thought the hit was dirty.
“I can’t even remember how the play went,” Talib answered.
Thomas had a 29-yard catch against Talib in the first quarter, but he had six receptions for 105 yards and a touchdown after Talib was taken out of the game with 13:36 remaining in the second quarter. So the hit was a clear turning point in the final game of the Patriots' season.
Belichick's relationship with Welker dissipated toward the end of the receiver's six-year run with the Patriots, and the slot machine signed a two-year deal with the Broncos last offseason. They shared a very brief exchange after yesterday's game, though Welker did hug Robert Kraft during pregame warmups.
It was obvious today Belichick didn't take too kindly to Welker when he only referred to him as "the receiver." Another point that shouldn't be lost: Belichick went all-out to defend Talib, who has become an in-house favorite in his season and a half with the Patriots, and the cornerback will be a free agent again this offseason.
But that's for another time. For today, Belichick didn't pull any punches while publicly admonishing one of the most productive players of his coaching career.
I was asked about the hit on Talib, and I feel badly for Aqib," Belichick said. "The way that play turned out, I went back and watched it, which I didn't have a chance to do yesterday. It was 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. That's all I'll say about that."
it was a pre-determined hit on talib