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Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski will miss Monday night’s game against the Miami Dolphins after his one-game suspension for a late hit on Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White was upheld on appeal.
Derrick Brooks, the appeals officer jointly appointed by the NFL and NFLPA to hear the case, upheld the suspension Tuesday afternoon. The appeal was heard over the phone.
Gronkowski will be unable to practice or participate in football activities with the Patriots until after the Dolphins game. Gronkowski will be back to prepare for New England’s Dec. 17 matchup with the Steelers.
Gronkowski was suspended Monday after the NFL reviewed his hit on White and found that Gronkowski had violated multiple parts of the league’s rules on unnecessary roughness, including forcibly contacting a runner who is out of bounds and initiating contact with a player in a defenseless position.
“Your actions were not incidental, could have been avoided, and placed the opposing player at risk of serious injury,” NFL Vice President of Football Operations Jon Runyan wrote in his letter to Gronkowski informing him of the suspension.
Gronkowski immediately appealed the decision.
On a Tuesday conference call that took place before the suspension was upheld, Patriots coach Bill Belichick had little to say about the situation.
“Well, we’ll see what happens when we get the final word,” Belichick said. “That’s not a decision that we have. It’s not our decision.”
Asked if there was any benefit to Gronkowski sitting a game – the big tight end with a lengthy injury history has played more than 83 percent of offensive snaps this season – Belichick said he wasn’t thinking in those terms.
“Well, again, that decision is not one that we’re making. It’s a league decision,” Belichick said.
Though the suspension leaves the Patriots without one of their best players for a prime-time game against a divisional rival, the Patriots are undoubtedly pleased that Gronkowski’s suspension doesn’t fall the following week, when the team travels to Pittsburgh, where home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs may be on the line.
Gronkowski apologized to White following the game, saying he was frustrated by how the game had been officiated but there was no place for his actions.
After White hauled in a fourth-quarter interception, Gronkowski dived and pushed his left forearm into White’s neck, at the base of his helmet. White left the game and was placed in the concussion protocol.
Gronkowski, 6 feet 6 inches and 265 pounds, is much larger and stronger than the 5-11, 192-pound White. CBS analyst Tony Romo said during the game broadcast that Gronkowski could easily be suspended for the hit, and that he could have been ejected immediately.
The CBS cameras showed Belichick apologizing to Bills coach Sean McDermott after the game on the field and saying that the incident was unnecessary.
Gronkowski is a first-time offender. The Patriots likely used his lack of a prior in his defense.
Gronkowski stands to take a hit financially. He will lose a game check worth $250,000 and a game-day roster bonus of $31,250 by missing Monday’s game.
Gronkowski also has different levels of incentives built into his contract. He’s already earned a $1 million bonus for surpassing 800 receiving yards, but could add another $2 million if he plays 80 percent of offensive snaps, catches 70 passes, generates 1,000 receiving yards or scores 12 touchdowns, and $2.5 million on top of that if he plays 90 percent of snaps, catches 80 passes, gains 1,200 receiving yards, scores 14 touchdowns or is named a first-team All-Pro by the Associated Press.
Gronkowski has 55 catches for 849 yards and 7 touchdowns, making the final incentive level of his contract tough to reach given the suspension.
Nora Princiotti can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @NoraPrinciotti.