The NFL has suspended New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski one game for a late, gratuitous hit to the head of Buffalo defensive back Tre’Davious White.
White was lying face down on the sideline after intercepting a pass Sunday when the 265lbs Gronkowski body-slammed him, driving his forearm into White’s back and head. Gronkowski was called for unnecessary roughness, but because of retaliation from the Bills there was no penalty assessed. White was later evaluated for concussion, a particular concern given the issues around brain trauma suffered by NFL players.
“Your actions were not incidental, could have been avoided and placed the opposing player at risk of serious injury. The Competition Committee has clearly expressed its goal of ‘eliminating flagrant hits that have no place in our game.’ Those hits include the play you were involved in yesterday,” the NFL vice president of football operations, Jon Runyan, wrote a letter to Gronkowski confirming his suspension.
After the game, which New England won 23-3, Patriots coach Bill Belichick appeared to apologize to Bills counterpart Sean McDermott, calling the hit “bullshit”.
Gronkowski also apologized, saying he let his frustration get the better of him after being called for a number of penalties. “I’m not in the business of that,” he told reporters. “There was a lot of frustration. I just want to apologize to Tre’Davious White. I don’t believe in taking shots like that.”
Gronkowski will miss New England’s game against Miami next Monday night. It is understood he plans to appeal the suspension.
Gronkowski has been one of the most productive tight ends in NFL history despite injury problems that have allowed him to play all 16 games just twice in his first seven seasons. This year, he has caught 55 passes for 849 yards and seven touchdowns.
At 6ft 6in, he is bigger than the players trying to cover him, and he has increasingly complained that officials ignore interference by defenders because his size can make it seem inconsequential. Gronkowski caught nine passes for 147 yards against Buffalo on Sunday. On the play that resulted in a penalty, he said he felt he was pushed and held.
“I just don’t understand why there wasn’t a flag,” he said. “There was a couple of times in the game they’re calling me for the craziest stuff ever. It’s like crazy. Like what am I supposed to do? And then they don’t call that? It was just frustration.”