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Why Rob Gronkowski got suspended for his cheap shot hit on Tre'Davious White

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Gronk rightfully got a one-game suspension after this.

No surprise here, but Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski heard from the league office this week after this play against the Buffalo Bills. He’s been suspended for one game.

“Your actions were not incidental, could have been avoided and placed the opposing player at serious risk of injury,” NFL VP of Football Operations said in a letter to Gronkowski.

“The Competition Committee has clearly expressed it’s goal of ‘eliminating flagrant hits that have no place in our game.’ Those hits include the play you were involved in yesterday.”

Given the line the league has drawn over other, similar infractions, putting Gronk on the shelf for a week was at least consistent. Gronk appealed his suspension, but on Tuesday afternoon, the league denied his appeal. He’ll be out Monday night against the Dolphins.

White will be back on the field when the Bills face the Colts this week. He cleared the concussion protocol on Thursday. He said that Gronkowski’s shot was dirty.

“He could have broken my neck,” White said. “I’ve got a son to raise. People don’t think about that when they react.”

In case you missed it, here’s how it all went down.

Tre’Davious White intercepted a Tom Brady pass while covering Gronkowski. After the play, Gronkowski came in late, and dropped an elbow on White:

It looks pretty bad from that angle. He should have been ejected, FOX analyst and the NFL’s former VP for officiating, Dean Blandino, said after the game. He wouldn’t rule out a suspension either.

The NFL reviewed the hit this week and agreed with Blandino.

White would be walked to the locker room to be evaluated for a head injury after the hit. The team confirmed after the game that White has a concussion because of the hit.

Four penalties were assessed on the play:

  • Unnecessary roughness against Gronkowski
  • Unnecessary roughness on Bills S Micah Hyde
  • Unnecessary roughness against Patriots WR Danny Amendola
  • Unsportsmanlike conduct on Bills DE Jerry Hughes

The Patriots were up 23-3 at the time, with less than five minutes to go in the game when the cheap shot happened. Gronk ended up with three penalties in the second half.

The Bills weren’t happy with the hit after the game.

After the game, Bills coach Sean McDermott voiced his displeasure for the hit:

White was a first-round, No. 27 overall selection by the Bills in the 2017 NFL draft out of LSU — and he’s held his own.

“I can’t recall a rookie being asked to do some of the things we’ve asked him to do this season,” Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said earlier this week. “As you know, we’ve had to match him up on some top receivers during the course of the season and you don’t usually ask a rookie to do that.”

White’s injury is the second major one for the Bills Sunday afternoon, after losing quarteback Tyrod Taylor to an injured knee.

Gronkowski apologized immediately after the game.

After the game, Gronk apologized for the hit in the locker room.

"Just wanna apologize to Tre'Davious White. I don't really believe in type of shots like that," Gronk said after the game.

"I mean, I feel like he was trying to push me a little bit and made the play," Gronkowski continued. "I just don't understand why there wasn't a flag. A couple times in the game. They are calling me for the craziest, craziest stuff ever and it's just like, crazy. I mean, like what am I supposed to do? And then they don't call that, I mean. It was just frustration and that's what happened,” Gronk said.

White was doing plenty of clutching and grabbing on him before the pick, but that won’t justify his action if the league decides to hand out additional punishment for the incident.

Bill Belichick deferred when asked about it by the media, but apologized to Sean McDermott.

Bill Belichick was asked about it after the game. “I didn't really see what happened. That was something the officials handled today and not something we really had any control over,” Belichick said.

He apologized to Bills coach Sean McDermott after the game. Cameras even caught him telling the Bills coach that Gronk’s hit was “bullshit.

As for the Bills, they didn’t hold back when asked about it.

Safety Micah Hyde called it a “dirty play” and no apology was going to cover up that fact.

“I know he (Gronkowski) is a better player than that,” McDermott added after the game.

Bills safety Jordan Poyer said that "there’s not any room in the league for that type of crap” and added that anyone else would have been ejected for that.

Poyer was also asked if this might come up the next time the Bills see Gronk and the Patriots. “Of course. Yeah. For sure. Yes.”

The NFL wasn’t happy about it either.

There is not a standardized rule for what gets a player suspended. If Gronk had been ejected, it would have lessened the likelihood of a suspension, as the NFL usually lets an ejection stand in place of a suspension for players without an established precedent for that kind of play.

The NFL suspended Bucs receiver Mike Evans for one game earlier this season for shoving Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore from behind in the wake of a sideline dustup, which is why it’s not a surprise Gronk will be missing a game for this incident.

As for the Bills, they’ll probably have something more to say when the two teams play again in Week 16.


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