I like Rob Gronkowski. Everyone seems to like Rob Gronkowski. But I hate what he did on Sunday, and the NFL should, too.
Gronkowski needs to be suspended for his grossly illegal hit to the head of Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White.
The hit didn’t happen during a play within the usual course of a football game. It was a post-whistle, top-rope wrestling move that entailed throwing 275 pounds on to an opponent who was on the ground, and who wasn’t looking. And it resulted in not one but two blows to the head for White: The initial contact between Gronk’s forearm and White’s head, and the contact between White’s head and the ground.
“If you do something like that to someone in the streets, you’re going to jail,” NBC’s Rodney Harrison said during Football Night in America. “He deserves to be suspended one game.”
Yes, he does. Maybe two games (reduced to one on appeal). And while many reacted to Rodney’s remark by pointing out that most things that happen on a football field would constitute assault and/or battery if they happened on the streets, Gronkowski’s hit on White wasn’t a football play. It was an admitted act of anger and frustration.
The fact that it involved a pair of hits to the head for White and placed the rookie in the concussion protocol makes it even more appropriate for a suspension. Indeed, the league suspended Bears linebacker Danny Trevathan earlier this year for a concussion-inducing hit on Packers receiver Davante Adams that came before the whistle. The league later suspended Buccaneers receiver Mike Evans for a blindside hit after the whistle. Gronkowski’s play combines the worst aspects of those two moments, and it cries out for swift and stern discipline.
Given that Patriots coach Bill Belichick admitted to Bills coach Sean McDermott that the maneuver was “bullsh-t,” it will be hard for Belichick to disagree with whatever the league chooses to do. If the league truly is serious about protecting players from unnecessary blows to the head, what the league should choose to do to Gronkowski is to suspend him for at least one game. Because there should be no place in the game for the kind of gratuitous violence in which Gronkowski engaged on Sunday.