The NFL suspended New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski one game on Monday for a late, gratuitous hit to the head of Bills defensive back Tre'Davious White.
White was lying face down on the sideline after intercepting a pass in Buffalo on Sunday when Gronkowski body-slammed him, driving his forearm into White's back and head. Gronkowski was called for unnecessary roughness, but not kicked out of the game.
"Your actions were not incidental, could have been avoided and placed the opposing player at risk of serious injury," NFL vice president Jon Runyan said in a letter to Gronkowski. "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."
After the game, Patriots coach Bill Belichick appeared to apologize to Bills counterpart Sean McDermott. Gronkowski also apologized, saying he let his frustration get the better of him.
"I'm not in the business of that," he told reporters after the game, which New England won 23-3. "There was a lot of frustration. I just want to apologize to Tre'Davious White. I don't believe in taking shots like that."
Barring a successful appeal, Gronkowski will miss New England's game against Miami next Monday night.
McDermott said White had entered the concussion protocol but declined to comment further on the play, the suspension or his conversation with Belichick.
Gronkowski has been one of the most productive tight ends in NFL annals despite an injury history that has allowed him to play all 16 games just twice in his first seven seasons. This year, he has caught 55 passes for 849 yards and seven touchdowns.
At 6-foot-6 and 265 pounds, he is bigger than the players trying to cover him, and he has increasingly complained that officials ignore interference by defenders because his size can make it seem inconsequential.
Gronkowski caught nine passes for 147 yards against Buffalo on Sunday. On the play that resulted in a penalty, he said he felt he was pushed and held.
"I just don't understand why there wasn't a flag," he said. "There was a couple of times in the game they're calling me for the craziest stuff ever. It's like crazy. Like what am I supposed to do? And then they don't call that? It was just frustration."
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