Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is suspended one game for a flagrant hit following an interception (video).
Gronkowski was apparently frustrated following the interception, possibly exacerbated by the contact on that route, and landed on Bills defensive back Tre’Davious White on the sideline. White left the game with a concussion.
The contact on a prone player is enough for a personal foul, but a player who is on the ground is also considered a defenseless player, and thus protected from forcible blows to the head or neck area.
Jon Runyan, the vice president of football operations, issued the one-game suspension within 24 hours of the infraction. An excerpt from the letter to Gronkowski lays out the case:
Your actions were not incidental, could have been avoided and placed the opposing player at risk of serious injury. The Competition Committee has clearly expressed its goal of “eliminating flagrant hits that have no place in our game.” Those hits include the play you were involved in yesterday.
In the offseason, executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent indicated that “egregious hits” would be more closely scrutinized for ejections and suspensions. This was underscored in a video that was played for all teams during training camp. Two hits that seem to square in this category — the Gronkowski hit and a defenseless-player hit by Bears linebacker Danny Trevathan — did not result in ejections, but netted a suspension for each.
Gronkowski is appealing the suspension, which will be heard this week by either Derrick Brooks or James Thrash, former players who have been appointed by the league and the players union. [Update 12/5: Brooks heard the appeal and upheld the 1-game suspension.] Given Vincent’s point of emphasis, it looks like an appeal doesn’t have a chance of success. If upheld, Gronkowski misses next week’s game against the Dolphins.