Seattle Seahawks cornerback Walter Thurmond believes Denver Broncos wide receiver and Super Bowl rival Wes Welker should have been disciplined for his hit on Aqib Talib during the AFC title game, even though the NFL said it was a clean play.
Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post passed along comments from the fourth-year defensive back, who said with the ever-growing focus on player safety around the league, he doesn't understand how a hit like that could go unpunished:
It was really uncalled for. 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.
Thurmond stated the biggest problem is the fact Welker kept his head down the entire time as he prepared to block Talib, with no effort to get open as the Broncos ran a typical pick play:
Welker had his head down, like he was coming down the whole time. That should be a flag, and he should be getting fined. There’s a whole bunch of things that should happen in that situation, but I don’t run the NFL.
Thurmond clearly agreed with New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick's assessment. After the loss, the longtime coach said it was "one of the worst plays I've seen" and said he would let the league handle the punishment handed down to Welker.
Much to Belichick and Thurmond's dismay, the NFL decided it was a fair play.
Arnie Stapleton of the Associated Press provided remarks from Dean Blandino, the league's vice president of officiating, who said under the current rules, it didn't meet the standards for an in-game penalty or postgame punishment.
He walked through the two potential issues involved and said Welker was cleared of any potential wrongdoing:
"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 on his weekly appearance on the NFL Network. He noted 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," Blandino said. "It's not late; Talib wasn't out of the play."
Thurmond told the New York Post that the Seahawks expect the Broncos to run a lot of those crossing patterns with built-in picks because they play so much man coverage. He also made it clear Seattle will be prepared to defend it.
Ultimately, the discrepancy all comes down to the intent. Thurmond and Belichick believe Welker was always planning to eliminate Talib from the play. The league goes strictly by the book, which says the play is fair under the current rules.
Thurmond isn't buying it. He'll get a chance to tell Welker face-to-face in a couple weeks.