FOXBOROUGH — Several Bills players were understandably displeased with Rob Gronkowski’s late hit on cornerback Tre’Davious White in the Patriots’ 23-3 win last Sunday.
“To me, it was blatant. He WWE’d him,” Bills safety Jordan Poyer said after the game. “It was like he was in the wrestling arena again.’’
On Thursday, White spoke for himself. He called Gronkowski a “dirty player” and was frustrated Gronkowski was suspended for only one game. After White’s interception in the fourth quarter, the Patriots tight end dived onto White and elbowed him in the head. The cornerback ended up in the concussion protocol and Gronkowski was not ejected from the game.
“I’m glad I had my mouthpiece in,” White told reporters. “I probably could’ve bit my tongue off. I bit my lip pretty bad. Terrible headache. It is what it is. He did what he wanted to do . . . He is what he did. Dirty shot, so what does that make him? Dirty player. Simple.”
“Man, it’s a joke,” White said when asked about Gronkowski’s one-game punishment. “Man, I don’t know what to say on that. I’m laying there. He snuck me with my back turned. He could have broke my neck. I mean, I got a son to raise. All that. People don’t think about that when they just react.”
Former Steelers safety Ryan Clark was a guest on ESPN Radio earlier in the week and shared a text message exchange from White.
“He said the whole ’hood want ’em, you know what I mean? The whole ’hood want Gronk, for sure,” Clark said. “I mean, that’s the exact text: ‘The whole ’hood want ’em.’ ”
Patriots tight end Dwayne Allen spoke about Gronkowski’s character when asked about White’s comments on Thursday at Gillette Stadium.
“You know, I won’t respond directly to Tre’Davious, but I’ll definitely defend the character of Rob,” Allen said. “Rob is a guy who is a tremendous player, high-character guy who comes to work, loves his teammates, loves playing the game of football, and goes about playing the game the right way, so that’s what I’ll say.
“Everything Rob has shown me this year has showed me a guy who loves the game of football, goes about playing it the right way, and wouldn’t want to harm anyone.”
After the game, Gronkowski was apologetic and blamed his “emotion and frustration” for the act. Gronkowski, who was called for an offensive pass interference penalty earlier in the game, said he felt he was being held and pushed on the play prior to the interception.
Patriots safety Duron Harmon was also supportive of Gronkowski, but acknowledged that what unfolded last Sunday was less than ideal.
“Gronk is not only a tremendous football player but a tremendous teammate,” Harmon said. “He’ll do anything for you. Always has a smile on his face. Always doing the right thing. In that moment, it didn’t happen. But I wouldn’t call Gronk a dirty player. It [was] a bad situation.”
Hall of Fame linebacker Derrick Brooks denied Gronkowski’s appeal of the suspension, so he will be out for Monday night’s game against the Dolphins.
“You know, it’s one of our mantras if you will, to eliminate distractions and not fuel the hype,” Allen said. “It’s unfortunate we’re in this situation but we’re going to get past it and find a way to win Monday night.”
Tom Brady briefly made an appearance in the locker room before exiting, and the Patriots quarterback did not practice Thursday, listed on the practice report with an Achilles’ injury.
Brady’s absence was noteworthy only because it was the first time this season he has missed consecutive practices, after sitting out Wednesday. With the Patriots playing on Monday, Thursday’s session was more similar to the usual Wednesday practice, which Brady has used as a rest day the previous two weeks.
Cornerback Malcolm Butler, who was also absent Wednesday, returned as a limited participant with an ankle injury. Defensive end Deatrich Wise was out because of a foot injury, and linebacker Kyle Van Noy (calf) and right tackle Marcus Cannon (ankle) also sat out.
Eric Rowe played 15 snaps at cornerback last Sunday after returning from a groin injury. Rowe had not played since Oct. 1 and his presence marked the first time the Patriots had a healthy secondary since that point. With injuries to Rowe and Stephon Gilmore, who missed three games earlier this season, the defensive backs have had to shuffle their responsibilities at various times. It has helped to have players with versatile skill sets, such as Harmon, Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, and Jonathan Jones. “We just had a lot of guys in a lot of different places, but what it really shows is we have a big next-man-up mentality,” Harmon said. “We feel we’re a talented and deep group. We have guys that don’t start or play as much that can come in and give us quality reps and quality play.” . . . Jim Nantz and Tony Romo, CBS’s top announcing team, will call the Patriots’ game against the Steelers a week from Sunday at Heinz Field. It’s the fifth time this season Nantz and Romo have been assigned to a Patriots game . . . Nate Solder is the Patriots’ nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, which recognizes a player’s volunteer and charity work.
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