New England Patriots four-time All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski was slapped with a one-game suspension by the National Football League Monday over a late hit Sunday on the Buffalo Bills’ Tre’Davious White. But Gronkowski could also lose up to $2 million in pay over the suspension, according to an analysis by Boston radio station WEEI, making the New England star tight end’s outburst of “frustration” perhaps the costliest mistake of his career.
The hit came after a play on which White appeared to grab and push Gronkowski as he raced downfield to catch a long pass from quarterback Tom Brady. White intercepted the pass and fell to the ground. That’s when the six-foot-six-inch, 265-pound Gronkowski launched himself into the fallen defender, appearing to ram his shoulder into White’s helmet.
Though Gronkowski was not kicked out of the game, White had to be helped off the field with a possible concussion. The 22-year-old rookie out of Louisiana State University who was the Bills’ first-round draft pick this year was placed in the NFL’s concussion protocol system.
The suspension, which Gronkowski is now appealing, was the first of the 28-year-old, seven-year veteran’s career. The NFL is expected to rule this week on whether the Patriots superstar will be forced to serve the suspension, which would render Gronkowski unavailable for New England’s Monday Night game against the Dolphins in Miami.
Watch video of Gronkowski’s late hit on White below.
— Roto Street Journal (@RotoStJournal) December 4, 2017
But the single game pitting the 10-2 defending Super Bowl champions against their struggling, 5-7 divisional rivals may be the least costly consequence of Gronkowski’s late hit, which Bills players blasted as a “dirty” play after Sunday’s game.
According to an analysis of Gronkowski’s incentive-laden contract by Patriots correspondent Ryan Hannable of WEEI.com, missing Monday’s game will likely take Gronkowski out of the running to reach the 1,200-yard receiving plateau this season — a milestone that under Gronkowski’s contract with the Patriots would automatically raise his pay from $8.75 million for the season to $10.75 million.
“In order to get to 1,200 yards, Gronkowski would need to average 117 yards receiving in the last three games of the season, which just doesn’t seem likely, especially considering he could be rested in Week 17 if the Patriots already are locked into a playoff spot,” Hannable wrote.
Gronkowski’s base salary this year is $5.5 million, but he has already reached the 800-yard mark which earned him a raise to $7.25 million. At 849 yards after Sunday, the tight end is easily within range of his next salary incentive, which kicks in at the 1,000-yard mark, bringing his pay to $8.75 million.
But that final 1,200 yard mark is almost certainly out of reach with the suspension leveled on Monday.
Pateiots Coach Bill Belichick, in his postgame handshake with Bills Coach Sean McDermott, was heard to apologize for Gronkowski’s hit on White, calling the play “bulls***.”
Gronkowski also issued an apology after the game, but attributed his “frustration” to the referees’ lack of a flag on the play, after they had called four penalties on Gronkowski during the game. Gronkowski had been flagged for only five penalties in the entire season before Sunday.
“I just don’t understand why there wasn’t a flag,” Gronkowski said. “It was a couple times in the game, and they’re calling me for the craziest stuff ever. And it’s crazy, like, what am I supposed to do? And then they don’t call that [on White]. It was just frustration, and that’s what happened.”
Watch Gronkowski deliver his full apology and explanation of the late hit after Sunday’s game, in the video below.
Brady also offered his support to his receiver in a Monday radio interview on WEEI.
“Gronk tries to get as close as he can to use his size, but the refs, they throw a lot of flags on him,” Brady said. “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.”