Patriots Think Clark Hit Was Dirty

Not only did Ryan Clark's hit draw a flag, it knocked the Wes Welker out of the game. Clark jacked up the defenseless receiver on a crossing pattern with a hit that Welker never saw coming. Even a day or two later, the Patriots sill think Clark was out of line. Some expect the league to take action in the form of a fine.

Steelers safety Ryan Clark's hit that knocked Patriots leading receiver Wes Welker out of Sunday's game remained a topic of discussion on Monday in Foxborough.

On the play, Matt Cassel's pass was tipped and flew well off course of its intended receiver. As Welker began to let up and relax, Clark de-cleated the diminutive slot receiver. Clark was penalized 15 yards for unnecessary roughness.

Just after the disappointing, five-turnover loss, Patriots coach Bill Belichick of the play, "I don't have anything to say about it right now."

A day later, after time to view the game tape and also let the emotion of the game subside, Belichick didn't have all that much more to say. He certainly didn't call into question whether the hit was dirty or not.

"It's not something you want to happen, but football is a contact sport," he said. "I would never question Wes' toughness."

New England nose tackle Vince Wilfork, who has dealt with questions about his own questionable plays a number of times over the past two seasons, wasn't quite so diplomatic.

"Of course it was a cheap one," Wilfork, speaking Monday in a contractually obligated interview on WEEI radio, said of Clark's hit. "We've seen it on film all year. He's nothing special. He's nothing special. He deserved that penalty. There are a lot of times they take shots, unnecessary shots at guys.


Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark (25) falls onto New England Patriots Wes Welker (AP/Stephan Savoia)

"If you're going to sit me down and send me to the commissioner's office for me playing in between the whistles, you need to sit this guy down. The same thing I got punished for is the same thing he did.

"I've been fined. I've talked to the commissioner about my play. That was unnecessary. We've seen it all the time leading up to this game; this guy taking shots when nobody is looking, or when it's out of the play, he's taking shots."

According to his teammates, Welker, who paces the Patriots with 84 receptions for 868 yards on the season, was at Gillette Stadium's workout facilities.

Upon seeing his undersized teammate a day after the bone-crushing collision, Pro Bowl guard Logan Mankins told the receiver, "That had to hurt."

Welker's response drew a laugh from Mankins.

"He said he didn't feel anything," Mankins said with a chuckle.

The Patriots won't officially offer up any update on Welker's injury situation until the first practice report of the week on Wednesday. No official announcement on the injury was made during the game, as Welker sat out the final quarter-plus of action.

Despite Welker's unknown status, his teammates have little doubt he'll be back in action as soon as humanly possible.

"He's a little firecracker," Mankins said. "He's a tough little guy. He took a big hit. I think he's all right. You never want to see anything bad happen to anyone, but he's a tough guy. He'll get through it."

Notes:
--QB Matt Cassel had a four-turnover game (two fumbles, two interceptions) and posted a season-low 39.4 passer rating. His previous low was 61.6 in another blowout loss, at San Diego on Oct. 12.
--RB Kevin Faulk is on pace to eclipse 1,000 yards from scrimmage in a season for the first time since 2003. Faulk leads the Patriots with 445 yards rushing on 73 attempts (6.1-yard average) while adding 43 receptions for 363 yards.
--RB Sammy Morris had a team-high 10 carries for 45 yards in the loss to the Steelers, including a 2-yard touchdown. It was Morris' first game with double-digit carries since Oct. 20 against Denver, when he injured his knee. He then missed three-plus games.
--TE Benjamin Watson had just one catch for 12 yards against Pittsburgh, the sixth time in the 10 games he's played in that the supposed playmaker has had one or fewer catches. Watson has 21 receptions for 207 yards on the season.
--WR Randy Moss had four catches for 45 yards in the loss to Pittsburgh, but he also had a pair of costly drops, including a potential touchdown late in the first half. For the season, Moss ranks second on the team in receptions (58) and yards (785) while leading the team with eight touchdowns.
--WR Wes Welker's status for Sunday's game in Seattle is unknown following a third-quarter hit by Pittsburgh S Ryan Clark that knocked New England's leading receiver from the game. Missing the final quarter-plus of action, Welker had his NFL record streak of games to open a season with six or more receptions snapped at 11.
--CB Jason Webster, who played in just three games with the Patriots, was placed on injured reserve. He suffered an ankle injury in Sunday's loss to the Steelers.
--DE Mike Wright earned his second start in three weeks, again filling in for injured starter Ty Warren (groin). Wright struggled at times against the Steelers' powerful rushing attack, finishing with five tackles and one quarterback hit.
--NT Vince Wilfork, who often occupies two opposing blockers in New England's two-gap, 3-4 front, is second on the team with 40 solo tackles through 12 games.
--LB Tedy Bruschi had a game-high 10 tackles in the loss to Pittsburgh and ranks second on the team with 69 total tackles. Rookie Jerod Mayo leads the way with 104 stops.
--PK Stephen Gostkowski missed a 27-yard attempt against Pittsburgh, just his third miss of the season. Gostkowski is now 27-for-30 on field goals and 26-for-26 on PATs.
--LT Matt Light, an All-Pro a year ago, struggled in Sunday's matchup with Pittsburgh OLB James Harrison. Harrison beat Light for a pair of second-half sacks, both of which led to forced fumbles and turnovers for the Steelers.

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