UPDATE: Rob Gronkowski was handed a one-game suspension by the NFL for his late hit on Buffalo's Tre'Davious White.
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Gronk was mean and Gronk was wrong and Gronk was dirty.
Leaping on a unsuspecting player that you outweigh by 80 pounds and driving your forearm into the base of his head/neck so that his helmet ricochets off the turf is a crappy thing to do.
Gronk has taken his share of abuse and injuries, but there’s no reason for rookie Tre White to pay for the sins of T.J. Ward and Bernard Pollard.
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Further, as a guy who’s had to come back from myriad injuries, Gronk knows what he did to White was crappy not just because of a possible suspension and fine, but because it injured a guy at least a little and possibly a lot. It was a dangerous thing to do.
What the hell are you doing, Gronk? pic.twitter.com/mZTgJA62eU— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) December 3, 2017
It was plain on Gronkowski’s face in the postgame locker room that he knew he’d screwed up badly. The parade off the field where he waved and stuck his tongue out at fans who jeered him (two projectiles landed near him) was show.
How much “feeling bad” and apologizing will mitigate his punishment is up for debate. It probably won’t sway the NFL’s discipline czars as much as the over-the-top moralizing that always follows a Patriots-involved incident.
What should Gronk get? Well, the play was over and he knew it. The guy didn’t see him coming. He went to the head.
Factors in his “favor” would be the immediate apology, acknowledgment that what he did was rotten, no prior offenses that are similar (although he threw Sergio Brown “out da club” and got a fine a few years back) and the fact it was truly heat of the moment, though not between the whistles.
There have been myriad occasions of on-field mayhem this year that resulted in discipline.
Gronk’s hit on White reminds me most of the very ugly hit Danny Trevathan of the Bears applied to the Packers' Davante Adams. The play was virtually over, though Adams wasn’t on the ground, and Trevathan targeted Adams head and went helmet-to-helmet with jackhammer force. It was uglier than Gronk’s and Adams was more messed up. There was very little contrition from Trevathan. He wasn’t ejected. Neither was Gronk. Trevathan got two games and it was reduced to one.
The Bucs' Mike Evans was the third-man-in with a flying shove to the back of Saints corner Marshon Lattimore after Jameis Winston started a probem on the sidelines with Lattimore. Evans got a game. His was a premeditated hit from behind like Gronk’s but he wasn’t directly involved in the action.
In the end, the NFL has enough to justify either decision. But the court of public opinion -- which rarely returns a positive verdict for New England -- is agitated and calling for anything from four games to jail time. If the NFL is anything, it’s reactionary.