In a world run rampant by Tweets and hot takes, a singular moment from Sunday’s Bills-Patriots’ game will dominate the airwaves and headlines all week.
With five minutes left in their annual beat down of Buffalo in Orchard Park, Tom Brady attempted a pass deep down the far sideline. The pass was under thrown and a backpedaling Tre’Davious White leaped to picked it off. White made no effort to advance the ball as half his body fell out of bounds. For good measure, Patriots’ receiver Phillip Dorsett touched White’s back.
Gronk Lands WWE Move on White
One instant later, Rob Gronkowski, perhaps the greatest tight end in NFL history, seemingly went brain dead and launched a WWE-style elbow drop directly on to the back of the unsuspecting corner’s head. Gronkowski jumped to his feet, but White stayed down in obvious pain. And, to the side, Danny Amendola and Micah Hyde got into a slight scuffle. All three offenders got unnecessary roughness calls. Despite two of those fouls coming against New England, they collectively offset.
The Bills ended up being the team losing yards on penalties due to Jerry Hughes’ verbal abuse of an official as he walked off the field.
If you follow Twitter, immediate backlash blew up from all sectors – national, regional, local, die-hard fans and bystanders all had some level of rage over the incident. Speculation ran rampant on the short and long-term implications of Gronkowski’s “unsportsmanlike” conduct?
The league handed down the verdict today. One-game suspension. He has already coughed up fines twice by the league for incidents such as throwing “haymakers” in Super Bowl XLIX and when he threw Sergio Brown “out of the club” in Indianapolis. Many the league laughed those things off as Gronkowski playing that big, goofy guy from Western New York.
Lingering Dangers of Cheap Hits
This latest episode, however, is no laughing matter. Tre’Davious White is an ultra-smart young man with a bright future who just suffered his first-career concussion. The NFL has well-documented its position seeking to protect people from brain injuries. A deliberate shot with such brute force from a big, strong man like Gronkowski can have terrible consequences on White’s future.
Using the Bears’ Danny Trevathan’s head-hunting hit on Davante Adams and the Buccaneers’ Mike Evans’ cheap shot against the Saints as barometers, Gronk’s one- game suspension comes as no surprise. Some pointed to AJ Green not receiving a suspension as a precedent for Gronkowski’s situation. However, Green was ejected from that game. Gronk did not get tossed. So even Sunday, a one-game absence loomed large.
To be fair, Gronk apologized immediately following the game and wanted #27 to know that’s not his style. Anybody who watches Gronkowski play week in and week out knows that’s true. A good sportsman who suffered a terrible lapse in judgment battles on every play. He is a marvelous pass receiver who dominated his tiny counterparts in the Buffalo secondary. Likewise, he is a sound blocker who can match up with anybody.
Not ‘The Patriot Way’
One would guess he will learn from his transgression. Proud of his Buffalo background, Gronk wants to represent his hometown well. He also wants to embody the “Patriot Way.” That means playing smart, fundamental football. Rarely do Pats players get as emotionally unhinged as Gronk did on Sunday.
Gronkowski proclaimed holding against him all game long. Indeed, on the play that ended up in the interception, there was obvious pass interference. One quarter earlier, he notched an absurd offensive pass interference penalty. Apparently, these officiating decisions led to Gronk’s tantrum.
Sometimes, ill-informed enemy fan bases out of jealousy or frustration condemn the league for being partial toward the Patriots. Hogwash. But, Gronkowski physically lashing out on a cornerback whose biggest offense was trying to cover him will not improve the team’s league-wide image. Sound fair? Probably not.
Gronkowski has played eight seasons on a team that competes for the Super Bowl each and every year. There will not be too many people shedding tears over his perceived lack of calls. The officials are going to miss calls and make bad calls every single game. There is no way the referees favor the Patriots and no way Gronkowski is a victim of poor officiating. It all evens out.
And, it evened out again this past Sunday. The Bills were outplayed and outcoached. Officials had their say, but made their usual share of good and bad calls for and against both teams.
And, can Gronkowski really be upset over the officiating on a day he racked up 147 yards?
Next Monday night, Gronkowski should have a real reason to be upset. He’ll be watching the game somewhere, but probably not in Miami.
Brandon Fazzolari is a Super Bowl expert…@spot_Bills