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The Hit: Ryan Clark lays out Wes Welker

Bawby: What Mahh? I'm talkin' to my friends.
Mah: What's that smell?
Bawby: I'm makin' sum chicken soup for Wes.
Mah: Why?
Bawby: Did you see that hit?  That guy Ryan Claahhk layed out poor Wes.  I mean, he went ayaborn and everythin'.  I was ready to head down to Foxboro and give Claahhk a piece of my mind.  Except, he's biggah than me and wears a helmet and would've ripped my freakin head clean off.  Anyways, I'm bringing Wes some soup to help him recover.
Mah: You remember the last time, right?
Bawby: The Foxboro PD locked me up 'cause I pitched a tent outside the playah's entrance.  So what?  Wes needs me.  I have this soup, some blankets to keep him wohm, and a pitchah of me in case, you know, he wants to hang it in his lockah.  Afterall, I AM...
Mah: Wes's biggest fan, I know.


Ok, I must admit to stealing the Bawby character from Stampede Blue's BigBlueShoe, but you get the point.  Bawby is obsessed with Wes...and so am I.  If you're new to Pats Pulpit, you may not know that I am absolutely over the top about Wes Welker.  Not in a skeevy, stalking sort of way, but in a...nevermind.  In my mind, Wes is one of, if not the, most important WR we have on the team.  Sure, Randy does all of these high flying acrobatics, making catches that no sane human is capable of.  Wes, on the other hand, is the grind it out, slippery fox kind of guy who can turn on a dime giving rival DBs fits.

That's why I almost had a coronary when he was flattened by Pittsburgh's FS, Ryan Clark.  There is little to no information coming out of Foxboro; radio silence (big surprise!).  Judging by the glazed look in his eyes when walked off of the field, all conjecture leads to a concussion.  Currently, he's classified as questionable with a head injury.

Now, I am fully aware this is a game of violence.  Players are wearing pads and helmets because they EXPECT to get hit.  The issue at hand is whether or not unnecessary roughness was used and the refs seemed to think so for 2 reasons: a) Wes was no longer near the ball and b) Clark left the ground.  I can see in the heat of a game, there's not much time to make decisions and, if a player practices day in and day out to hit people, one might react aggressively.  Unfortunately, Clark reacted OVERLY aggressive and hammered Welker.  Heat of the moment, heat of battle, it happens.  I'm sure our very own Rodney Harrison has had a few of those hits.

An illegal play where a player, in the judgement of the officials, uses tactics that are above and beyond what is neccesary to block or tackle another player.

 This is the NFL definition.  Does it apply to the hit on Welker?  I think it's hard to dispute that it does.  It was certainly above and beyond what would've been necessary to tackle Welker.  It's also hard to dispute Clark's hit wasn't excessive by one simple fact: he left the ground.  The only reason to launch yourself at a ball carrier is to level them.  Even Ryan acknowledges this and apologizes...sort of:

"The ball got tipped; he said I shouldn't have left my feet. But I don't really know how to control that. I talked to Kevin Faulk and some other guys, I told them I apologize. I couldn't find Welker after the game to tell him I wasn't trying to be dirty, it was just football."

The reason this rule is in place is to prevent serious injury to not only the tackled, but the tackler.  This was not an example of spearing, but that particular tactic is FAR more dangerous to the tackler, causing a potentially serious neck or spinal injury.  If you've watched any of the specials on retired football players, the hits take a toll and it's not a pretty sight - grown men needing assistance from their wives to sit in a chair.

I have very mixed feelings about this.  On the one hand, it's a violent game, knowingly played by men who have a clear understanding of the risks involved.  On the other hand, there needs to be a happy medium, a place where a good hit doesn't cause serious damage to a player.  Is it possible to strike a balance where the the risk of serious injury is reduced and the game is still exciting to watch?  That, in my mind, is the real question.