Gronkowski opened his postgame remarks with reporters by apologizing for the late hit on White, who had stepped in to intercept a Tom Brady pass late in the Patriots’ victory over the Bills in Buffalo. White was out of bounds, the play was dead and yet Gronk bodysurfed him, a move for which he was flagged for unnecessary roughness. Danny Amendola was flagged for the same thing, as was Buffalo’s Micah Hyde. The Bills’ Jerry Hughes was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct involving an official, so, somehow, the Bills were the ones losing yards on the play.
“First off, I definitely want to apologize to No. 27,” he said of White, who went off with a head injury and is in concussion protocol. “I’m not in the business of that. I was just really frustrated at that moment.”
When asked to explain his frustration, Gronkowski said, “He was trying to push me a little bit . . . 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.”
Given the NFL’s concussion crisis, it is no shock to see Gronk have to sit out one game as the league cracks down on hits to the head. Earlier this season, the Chicago Bears’ Danny Trevathan was suspended two games (reduced to one on appeal) for a helmet-to-helmet hit to the head of the Green Bay Packers’ Davante Adams. Gronkowski complained that refs never flag defensive players when they hold him. Asked whether he was growing frustrated over the past couple of games, he replied: “Over the past couple of seven years.”
Tom Brady agreed that the tight end who has been among the league leaders in offensive pass interference penalties is frustrated.
“He’s 270 pounds, so when they put a 190-pound player on him, any time there’s any contact, just by inertia the other defender is going to move,” Brady said on his weekly appearance on WEEI’s “Kirk and Callahan” show. “You basically limit it to a noncontact play and it’s just try to out-quick someone, which obviously those guys are a lot quicker.
“Gronk tries to get as close as he can to use his size, but the refs, they throw a lot of flags on him. He’s tried to change his style of play a little bit, but I think he obviously gets grabbed and held all day long. I’d say it is very frustrating for him to get these pass interference calls and he’s getting held the whole game and he doesn’t get a call. I can see why he’s very frustrated. It’s frustrating for everybody.”
Gronk may still have to face the wrath of his coach. Bill Belichick wasn’t happy when Gronk celebrated a touchdown a week ago by giving a smaller teammate a piggyback ride. Imagine how he’ll feel about this. He gave a brief window into his thinking when he apologized to Bills Coach Sean McDermott on the field after the game, calling it “bull[crap]” and adding, “I’m sorry. I apologize.”
On Monday morning, Belichick was asked about a possible suspension and gave a typically Belichickian answer: “Things that are out of our control are out of our control.”
Brady echoed that: “It’s an emotional game. These are spur-of-the-moment things. They just happen. We deal with the penalties. They got some penalties on the play, too, and you’d always love to keep your cool all the time, but when you’re in a sport when you are trying to run, block and hit, tackle, and be physical and aggressive, that is why people tune in. I think if it was a pillow fight I don’t think people would tune in to watch.”
The suspension could also hurt Gronkowski’s pursuit of a very lucrative bonus in his contract.
A 1 game suspension will cost Gronk a $250k game check, a $31,250 game-day roster bonus, and will make it that much tougher to reach his $5.5 million incentive level (90 percent of snaps, OR 80 catches, OR 1,200 yards, OR 14 touchdowns)— Ben Volin (@BenVolin) December 4, 2017
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