Will Bucs Face Tampering Charge Over Rob Gronkowski Playbook Debacle?

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April 30, 2020

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers might be playing a little fast and loose in their effort to win a Super Bowl.

Will it cost them?

The NFL cleared Tom Brady of any wrongdoing after the Buccaneers quarterback made a controversial visit to the home of his new offensive coordinator, Byron Leftwich. Now, the league could be forced to look into Brady’s new Tampa Bay teammate, Rob Gronkowski, who finds himself in the middle of some drama for comments he made this past weekend during the Bud Light Seltzer “Drafterparty.”

Gronkowski said offhandedly Saturday — after ESPN’s Sage Steele pointed out No. 1 pick Joe Burrow has been studying the Cincinnati Bengals’ playbook for weeks — that he’s had the Bucs’ playbook for four weeks. This, of course, could pose a problem, as Gronkowski still was under contract with the Patriots until New England traded him to Tampa Bay on April 21.

Gronkowski since has backtracked, insisting Wednesday night on social media he was joking around with Steele, but NBC Sports’ Mike Florio couldn’t help but wonder Thursday on ProFootballTalk whether the Bucs will face a tampering charge for the tight end’s controversial remarks.

“The fact that you have the playbook suggests that there were maybe some conversations that shouldn’t have happened, because at that point Rob Gronkowski was still the contractual property of the Patriots,” Florio said. “We’ve seen tampering as it relates to Tom Brady, and Bruce Arians blurted out at the Combine, ‘Yeah, I’ll call Tom Brady once free agency opens.’ Clear tampering violation. Nobody cares. Questions about whether or not they spoke to Tom Brady directly before they were allowed to. Tampering violation. Nobody cares.

“There’s a certain point there where you push your luck that the NFL says, ‘You know, we really don’t want to do this (punish you), but we have to.’ And I think that if Gronk really did have the playbook three weeks before he was traded by the Patriots to the Bucs, the league would have had to have done something about it.”

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It’s not like tampering doesn’t happen in the NFL. It’s just a matter of not being stupid about it.

Gronkowski’s “joke” raises questions, if nothing else, and the overall manner in which the Bucs have operated this offseason certainly doesn’t do them any favors in the court of public opinion. So, it’ll be interesting to see whether the NFL investigates the matter and potentially hands down a fine (or some other discipline).

“There was a weird thing three or four years ago where, just out of the blue, the NFL whacked the Chiefs for having premature discussions directly with Jeremy Maclin when he was jumping from the Eagles — where he had been drafted by Andy Reid — to the Chiefs, where Reid was the head coach. And they ended up losing a third-round draft pick over it,” Florio recalled. “So, when the NFL does wake up and enforce the tampering rules against one of the 32 teams that are violating the tampering rules, it’s ugly for that team. That’s why there is at least a little concern here, because you never know when the Kraken is going to be unleashed, right?”

Either way, as Florio noted, it sure feels like Gronkowski’s social media post in the midst of this controversy was an attempt to downplay the situation. We’ll see if his efforts work.

Then again, maybe the Bucs don’t even care at this point. What’s a few bucks or a draft pick if you ultimately win a Super Bowl with Brady and Gronkowski?

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Thumbnail photo via Timothy T. Ludwig/USA TODAY Sports Images
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