The NFL has had its share of unsportsmanlike conduct this year, with Rob Gronkowski’s suspension for hitting Buffalo Bills defensive back Tre’Davious White after the play was over Sunday just the latest example. While White was lying face-down on the ground, Gronkowski dove onto White and slammed his arm into the back of White’s helmet. Gronkowski was penalized for unnecessary roughness and many called the play “dirty,” but he was not ejected.
There have been several notable plays this season in the NFL that served as an indication to what Gronkowski’s punishment would be, and many were cited in the debate regarding what he deserved.
In Week 4, Chicago Bears linebacker Danny Trevathan was suspended two games for his hit on Green Bay wide receiver Davante Adams. While his teammates were bringing Adams down, Trevathan came in at a full sprint, lowered his head, and launched into Adams’ face mask. Trevathan was not ejected, but was suspended two games. The suspension was reduced to one game on appeal.
Miami Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alonso was not suspended for his hit on Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco in Week 8. Flacco was on the ground at the end of a slide when Alonso slammed into him, leaving Flacco with a concussion and a gash that required stitches. Alonso was penalized on the play and fined $9,115 for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Week 9 was a particularly busy weekend for NFL vice president of football operations Jon Runyan. Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green managed to avoid a suspension but was fined $42,000 for punching Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey. After Ramsey pushed Green to the ground, Green jumped up and put Ramsey in a headlock before throwing him to the ground and punching him several times. Both Green and Ramsey were ejected in the first half.
That same week, Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans was suspended one game for his blindside hit on New Orleans Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore. Evans knocked Lattimore down from behind after a play was over, then pounced on him and started throwing punches.
While there may be differences in the actions by both Gronkowski and Evans, the language used by Runyan in his letter explaining the suspension to Evans portended to what Gronkowski was facing.
“During the third quarter, after a play had ended, you struck an unsuspecting opponent in the back, knocking him to the ground. Your conduct clearly did not reflect the high standards of sportsmanship expected of a professional,” Runyan wrote in the letter concerning Evans’s altercation..
Evans appealed, but the suspension was upheld.
Gronkowski’s history may have played in his favor – he has not had any incidents like this in his eight-year career. The closest would be when he took then-Colts linebacker Sergio Brown and “threw him out of the club.” Gronkowski was fined $8,268.
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