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NFL wanted to be ‘fair and firm, but not excessive’ with Gronk’s punishment

Rob Gronkowski will miss Monday night’s game against the Dolphins and will lose approximately $281,000 in salary.
Rob Gronkowski will miss Monday night’s game against the Dolphins and will lose approximately $281,000 in salary.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

NFL vice president of football operations Troy Vincent explained some of the thinking that went into Rob Gronkowski’s one-game suspension handed down this week, and defended the severity of the suspension to critics who think the Patriots tight end got off too lightly.

“We evaluated, and the one game is where we landed,” Vincent said Wednesday. “It was Rob’s first action of this kind. You want to be fair and firm, but not excessive.”

Vincent explained that Gronkowski’s late hit was labeled a “non-football act,” and could be labeled under one of two categories: unsportsmanlike conduct or unnecessary roughness.

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Vincent said the NFL chose unnecessary roughness for Gronkowski’s hit, though he didn’t fully explain why the hit wasn’t deemed unsportsmanlike conduct.

Vincent said the fact that Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White landed in the concussion protocol as a result of the hit did not factor into the punishment.

“We never look at the result. It’s always the act of,” Vincent said. “We don’t get into the result or the intent. And then when you look at the non-football act, the only thing you want to look at is history and precedent.”

The NFL has suspended 10 players for player safety or unnecessary roughness reasons this season. Marshawn Lynch, Andrew Sendejo, Mike Evans, JuJu Smith-Schuster, and Gronkowski each received one-game suspensions. Danny Trevathan, Aqib Talib, and Michael Crabtree each had two-game suspensions reduced to one game. Vontaze Burfict, a repeat offender, got a three-game suspension in August. And Bengals safety George Iloka had his one-game suspension reduced to a fine on Wednesday.

Gronkowski’s appeal on Tuesday was denied by Derrick Brooks, who was jointly appointed by the NFL and the NFL Players Association. James Thrash is the league’s other appeals officer.

“They make the decision, and again, we believe they’ve been fair and consistent,” Vincent said.

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Gronkowski will miss practice this week and Monday night’s game at Miami, which will cost him approximately $281,000 in salary.

In upholding Smith-Schuster’s one-game suspension on Tuesday, Vincent said the NFL didn’t consider Smith-Schuster standing over Burfict and taunting him after the play.

“Taunting was never considered, at least from our office,” Vincent said. “It was the act of hitting Vontaze Burfict in the head area. The talking was not considered. Are we sending a mixed message? We’ve been very consistent, fair, firm.”

Vincent said the NFL will consider a “targeting rule” similar to the one in college football in which players could be automatically ejected for delivering hits to the head.

“I think it’s something that we have to consider,” Vincent said. “We’ve seen it’s worked to a degree. That play is a reviewable play at the collegiate levels, but we believe there have been some positives, that it is a deterrent. It is one of our agenda items for the offseason as we speak to the coaches and the competition committee.”


Ben Volin can be reached at ben.volin@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @BenVolin