The NFL came down hard Monday on Rob Gronkowski, suspending the New England Patriots tight end one game for his late hit on Buffalo Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White.
Gronkowski will appeal the suspension, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
In a letter to Gronkowski, NFL vice president of football operations Jon Runyan wrote:
“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 (Sunday).”
The play in question took place late in Sunday’s 23-3 Patriots victory at New Era Field. White intercepted a pass intended for Gronkowski, and the tight end, believing he’d been interfered with, delivered an elbow to the back of White’s head. Gronkowski was penalized for unnecessary roughness but was not ejected.
The Bills later announced White had entered concussion protocol.
Gronkowski apologized to White after the game, blaming his outburst on “frustration” over what he considered unfair officiating. It’s the first suspension of his eight-year NFL career.
Several Bills players were highly critical of Gronkowski after the game, calling the hit “blatant” and “uncalled for.”
“Unnecessary,” Buffalo safety Jordan Poyer told reporters. “Unnecessary anywhere in this league. Tre made a great play. Obviously, Gronk was frustrated. (There’s) nowhere in this league for that type of play. I understand flames are going, heat of the battle, but there is no room in this league for that type of crap.”
If he loses his appeal, Gronkowski will be forced to sit out the Patriots’ road game against the Miami Dolphins next Monday night. He has played in every game this season for New England after missing the final two months of the 2016 campaign with a back injury.
With Gronkowski suspended and Martellus Bennett on injured reserve, the Patriots currently have just two available tight ends: Dwayne Allen and rookie Jacob Hollister. Former New York Jets and Giants tight end Will Tye also has spent most of this season on New England’s practice squad.
After the Dolphins game, the Patriots will visit the Pittsburgh Steelers for a game that could decide home-field advantage in the AFC before returning home to host the Bills. Poyer said he and his teammates “of course” will remember Gronkowski’s hit ahead of that Week 16 rematch.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick declined comment in an interview with WEEI’s “Dale & Holley with Keefe” shortly after the suspension was announced.
Thumbnail photo via Timothy T. Ludwig/USA TODAY Sports Images