Top ref says hit on Welker within rules

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
Boston Herald columnist Ron Borges called around and discovered the NFL has no problem with the vicious hit Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark laid on New England Patriots receiver Wes Welker.

Clark launched himself into Welker's chest in the third quarter of Sunday's game at Gillette Stadium, sending the slot receiver straight backward onto his head. Welker didn't return to the game. The Patriots haven't updated his status and Welker has been coy about playing Sunday.

The ball had been tipped, and Welker was a potential receiver, making him fair game. The officials flagged Clark for unnecessary roughness for hitting a defenseless receiver.

Most assumed an NFL fine was on its way, but after a careful review the league found Clark's hit wasn't dirty.

"A lot of people think it's a foul to leave your feet," NFL vice president of officiating Mike Pereira told Borges. "Launching is not a foul. There is nothing in the rulebook that states that at all. It's a misconception people have.

"It is a foul to hit with your helmet against a defenseless receiver. It is a foul to throw a forearm into the neck or head area of your opponent. I don't think either of those things happened. I'm not a fan of those high hits, but if you do it with your shoulder you're OK.

"He does actually lead with the shoulder on a high hit up in the area of the neck, but he left the helmet out of the contact. When you look at it and slow it down it probably was not an illegal hit. You might have to factor in that it was deflected early and does that make it become late. But the actual hit itself is probably OK."

As for Welker's take on the collision, he spoke about it for the first time Wednesday.

"It's a football play," Welker said. "It is what it is. No sense in crying or whining about it. You just have to keep on moving on and get ready for the next week."

As for whether he saw Clark coming, Welker replied, "Did it look like I saw Clark coming?"