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Dan Shaughnessy

Don’t try to defend Rob Gronkowski, Patriots fans

Rob Gronkowski was called for penalties four times Sunday. Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

Rob Gronkowski deserved a suspension for his cheap shot on Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White late in the fourth quarter of the Patriots’ 23-3 victory in Buffalo Sunday.

There. Was that so hard?

This is not to say we don’t like Rob Gronkowski. He is one of the best tight ends in the history of football. When healthy, Gronk is virtually unstoppable. He’s also a fun goof who donates to charity, engages fans, and has never been in trouble with the local authorities. He has been a great Patriot and a good citizen and teammate. He’s a Hall of Famer.

Gronkowski, who was given a one-game suspension Monday, has never done anything like he did on Sunday. We’ve seen him go face-to-face with opponents. We’ve seen him maybe throw somebody out of the club. But he’s never been a cheap shot artist. He has never intentionally tried to hurt a defenseless player.

This play was bad. And it is indefensible. Shame on any Patriot nitwit who’ll explain this by telling us that Gronk gets held on every play and it finally boiled over. Please spare us all idiotic and embarrassing defenses of the act. Your guy Gronk did a really bad thing, and there is no excuse for it.


With less than five minutes to play and the Patriots up by 20 (more on that odious trend later), White intercepted a Tom Brady pass at the end of a play that featured lot of holding, pushing, and hand fighting between White and Gronkowski. Gronk gets held on virtually every play and too often gets slapped with offensive pass interference just because he’s big and fast.

He was enjoying a great afternoon but also having a frustrating afternoon. He lost his mind when he saw no penalty flag after White came down with the pass.


While White lay on the ground, on his stomach, half out of bounds, Gronk came up from behind and launched his 265-pound self onto the Buffalo player, driving his elbow into the back of White’s helmet to punctuate the assault. One of the Bills described it as a WWE move. It was all of that and more.

For this, Gronk was penalized for a personal foul. He was not ejected from the game.

After the game, Gronk was perfectly contrite. He apologized.

Swell. But it wasn’t enough. It’s great that Gronk admitted his crime and it’s good that he has a clean record in this area, but the league needed to act on this and take Gronk off the field for at least a week. White is in the concussion protocol as result of the hit. How could Gronk play next week if his victim was sidelined with a concussion?

Any Patriot fan who attempts to defend this cheap, dirty play identifies him or herself as a footie-pajama-wearing, card-carrying Honk who will defend anything in the name of their beloved team. Anyone who tries to excuse Gronk’s act by detailing all the holding and unfair calls around Gronk is changing the subject.

This is not about all the unfair tactics used against Gronk. This is about an act that would put a man in jail if it happened on the street.

Twitter tough guys who believe this is nothing but a snowflake argument should listen to Patriot Super Bowl champ Rodney Harrison, who said, “If you do something like that on the street, you’re going to jail. He deserves to be suspended for one game.’’


Silly Rodney. What does he know about hard hits?

We live in a region where Bruins fans forever spit on the ground at the mention of Ulf Samuelsson and Matt Cooke because of dirty hits delivered on Bruin stars. How can any of those Hub hockey fans believe that this is OK because Gronk was just frustrated and acting in the heat of the moment?

This isn’t complicated, people. Gronk delivered a hit to the head of a man lying on his stomach out of bounds. Sorry, but that gets you a week off from any reasonable tribunal.

Finally, let’s remember that all this happened after the outcome of the game had already been decided. Just like the week before, and all the weeks before that. With a Patriot victory comfortably in hand, Brady was still dropping back, dodging the pass rush, and slinging it upfield when there was nothing left to do but run up the score and embarrass the opponent.

One hundred years of sports history has taught us that it’s good to rest star players and get them out of harm’s way once the game is won (Red Auerbach was lighting up his cigars at this point), but the Patriots know better. They keep the foot to the floor, even when the game is won because they know Tom is never going to get hurt.


Tom did not get hurt Sunday. But Gronk did something stupid. At a juncture (up 20, less than five minutes to play) when it would have been smarter to have him on the bench.

And now unless Gronkowski and the Patriots win an appeal, they won’t have him next week in Miami.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at dshaughnessy@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Dan_Shaughnessy.