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National Columnist

Hate Sherman's rant? It's got nothing on Belichick's Welker accusation

Bill Belichick is trying to say one of his former players tried to hurt one of his current players. (Getty Images)
Bill Belichick is trying to say one of his former players tried to hurt one of his current players. (Getty Images)

More NFL: Broncos handle Pats to win AFC, reach Super Bowl

Richard Sherman said something shocking. Bill Belichick said something disgusting. Not a subtle difference, that.

Sherman? He gloated. He was a poor winner. He didn't show much any class by erupting on national television after the Seahawks beat San Francisco in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday night, but it was seconds after the biggest moment of his career. Testosterone and adrenaline were coursing through his veins. The game had just ended. He had delivered the winning play. And he has a history with 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree. Add it up, and while I'm not impressed with Richard Sherman, I can't get mad at him. What he said was shocking, but that's about as far as it goes.

What Belichick said? Appalling. Mean-spirited. Classless, even dangerous.

Yet most of us are talking about Richard Sherman instead of Bill Belichick. On Twitter, Richard Sherman is trending around the world. Not just nationally, though he is. But as I write this on Monday afternoon he's trending in a country as far away as Poland, and as pervasively as worldwide, and he's trending primarily because people think he's a jerk. They're calling him worse stuff than that, of course, racially loaded terms like "thug." Because he's just so scary!

Meanwhile, more than 12 hours after his team lost to the Broncos in the AFC title game, Patriots coach Bill Belichick very calmly sat down behind a microphone and without even a drop of emotion accused Broncos receiver Wes Welker (an ex-Patriot) of trying to injure another player.

Welker did injure another player, Patriots defensive back Aqib Talib, but injuries happen in football. Intentionally inflicting an injury? That doesn't happen nearly as often, and when it does happen we as a sports-loving society -- as decent people -- recoil from it. Because intentionally hurting another player is about as low as an athlete can go in the course of competition.

One of the few things more despicable? Unfairly accusing a player of intentionally hurting someone else. That's what Belichick did, and what he said is worse than what Richard Sherman said, and if this were a mathematics equation it would look like this:

Awfulness of Belichick comment > awfulness of Sherman comment.

Actually, it would look like this:

Awfulness of Belichick comment > awfulness of Sherman comment (times 50).

Because what Belichick said about Welker was 50 times worse than what Sherman said about Crabtree. Maybe 75 times worse. A hundred times worse? Yeah, probably so.

Here's what Belichick said about the play, a pass over the middle in which Broncos receivers Demaryius Thomas and Welker ran crossing routes and Welker collided with Talib:

"The way that play turned out, I went back and watched it, which I didn't have a chance to [Sunday]," Belichick said Monday morning. "It was a deliberate play by the receiver to take out Aqib. No attempt to get open. I'll let the league handle the discipline on that play, whatever they decide. It's one of the worst plays I've seen."

Welker is dirty. That's what Belichick is saying. Aqib Talib was knocked out of the game with a knee injury, presumably a serious one, and it happened because Wes Welker made a "deliberate play ... to take out Aqib."

That's what Belichick said, but he said more than that.

One of the worst plays I've seen.

Belichick finally turned magnanimous when he allowed that he will "let the league handle the discipline," which is ironic in that the league might have more to say about Bill Belichick than about Wes Welker. Can a coach brazenly accuse a player of another team of trying to hurt someone? We're about to find out, because the league saw the play. I saw it. You probably saw it too, and if not, here you go. Watch this:

Watch Welker over and over. Watch him coming out of his break and head behind Thomas. It's called a pick play, and it happens all game long in the NFL. So do open-field collisions between receivers and defensive backs -- like the one a few minutes before Welker ran into Talib, when Patriots receiver Julian Edelman ran into Broncos defensive back Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who had to leave the game but later returned.

But anyway, watch that play again. What I see: Welker comes out of his break, avoids Thomas by running behind him, and runs into Talib. Why? Because there was nowhere else to go.

Watch that, and then remember something: Wes Welker is 5-feet-9, 185 pounds. Aqib Talib is four inches taller (6-1) and 20 pounds heavier (205). Oh, and another thing about Welker: He suffered a concussion this season. Then he suffered another. After the second concussion Welker was sidelined for five weeks, and when he returned he was wearing an oversized helmet to protect his brain. When did he return?

One week ago.

This is who Bill Belichick is accusing of trying to injure a bigger, heavier defender by running into him at full speed: a guy with a twice-concussed brain forced to wear a special helmet to protect his head.

And we call Belichick a "genius?" Man, he's no genius. He's either stupid, or he's malicious. Those are the only choices I see to describe a man who would announce that he is certain, beyond a doubt, that Wes Welker made a "deliberate play ... to take out Aqib."

One of the worst plays I've seen.

I've seen worse things.

Belichick's news conference Monday, for example.

 
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