By HOWARD ULMAN
AP Sports Writer
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The collision that knocked Aqib Talib out of the AFC championship game reverberated Monday when Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Wes Welker tried to “take out” the star cornerback.
Belichick took the shot at his former wide receiver after viewing video of the second-quarter play in the Denver Broncos’ 26-16 win on Sunday. Coming from opposite sides, the players ran into each other. No penalty was called.
It “was a deliberate play by the receiver to take out Aqib, no attempt to get open,” Belichick said during his opening statement at his season-ending news conference.
“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’m going to say about that.”
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Monday, “If there is any discipline for plays in (Sunday’s) games, it will be determined by Merton Hanks later in the week.”
Hanks is the league’s vice president of player operations.
Welker, who had a cool relationship with Belichick before leaving New England as a free agent last offseason, was not available for comment Monday.
But after the game, he said, “it was one of those plays where it’s kind of a rub play and I was trying to get him to go over the top, and I think he was thinking the same thing and wanted to come underneath and we just kind of collided. … It wasn’t a deal where I was trying to hit him or anything like that.”
After Talib left with a knee injury, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning took advantage of having the much shorter Alfonzo Dennard covering receivers Talib normally would handle. The previous season, a thigh injury ended Talib’s day in the first quarter of the AFC championship game, a 28-13 loss to Baltimore.
Denver coach John Fox said he hadn’t seen Belichick’s comments but called Welker “a great player, high integrity. I can say that we were not doing anything with intent.”
Asked why he would send the 5-foot-9 Welker, 4 inches shorter, at Talib after sustaining two recent concussions, Fox said, “That’s a good question. I don’t have an answer to it.”
But he and several Patriots said pick plays in which one receiver brushes against or hits a defender to free another receiver are becoming more prevalent.
“Teams do a lot of that just to give guys separation and to open up the passing game,” safety Devin McCourty said.
Steve Gregory, New England’s other starting safety, said he didn’t think Welker would deliberately try to hurt a player.
“I don’t think anybody plays that way,” he said, “especially at this level of football with two great football teams in the Broncos and ourselves.”
Besides, Fox said, the Broncos weren’t the only team to run a pick play.
“The umpire’s in that area. It’s a pretty crowded area, so I think offenses have tried to exploit that,” he said. “We’re not the only team, by any stretch. In fact, our opponent Sunday did the same thing.”
Welker, coming from the right, used his right arm to make contact with the left arm of Talib, who was running from the left to stay with his receiver. They collided a split-second before Manning’s pass went off the hands of receiver Demaryius Thomas a few yards away.
Patriots defensive end Andre Carter called it a “nasty” play.
“Wes, was he doing his job? I’m sure he was to a certain degree,” Carter said. “(Do) I think the hit could have been cleaner? Yes.”
But Broncos tight end Julius Thomas was more concerned about preparing to face the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl on Feb. 2 than about Belichick’s comments.
“The thoughts and feelings of opposing coaches definitely don’t bother me,” he said. “We’re worried about what’s happening this week.”