Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski apologized for a late hit Sunday on Bills cornerback Tre'Davious White, blaming his reaction on "frustration."
"First off I definitely want to apologize to No. 27," Gronkowski said in the locker room after New England's 23-3 win over Buffalo at New Era Field. "I'm not in the business of that. I mean, it was a lot of frustration. I was just really frustrated at that moment. It just happened naturally through emotions and frustration. Just want to apologize to Tre'Davious White. I don't really believe in type of shots like that."
The hit, which came after White intercepted Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in the fourth quarter, resulted in the rookie being placed in the league's concussion protocol.
Gronkowski said his frustration came because he felt like White had interfered with him on his route.
"I felt like he kind of pushed me a little bit and made the play," he said. "I just don't understand why there was no flag. There was a couple of times in the game (where) they're calling me for the craziest stuff ever. It's like crazy. I mean, like, what am I supposed to do? And then they don't call that? I mean, it was just frustration. That's what happened."
Earlier in the game, Gronkowski made a leaping, 30-yard catch over White. The Amherst native finished the game with nine catches (on 11 targets) for a team-leading 147 yards in the win.
"It was a great day. It was a great team win overall. I wouldn't say it put a damper on it, because we just got a good win on the road versus a solid team," he said of his late hit, which could bring about a suspension or fine from the NFL. "It's always tough to play in Buffalo. We had a good team win. The defense played awesome, I mean we ran the ball great, we did what we had to do in the throwing game and we got the win. It was huge."
Much of the talk after the game, however, focused on Gronkowski's hit. Patriots coach Bill Belichick was caught on camera by Rochester's WROC-TV apologizing to Bills coach Sean McDermott for the play, calling it "bull----."
“I thought it was a good play by Tre," McDermott said after the game. "I wasn’t happy with what ensued after that. ... I just don’t think there’s any place in the game for that, really. It’s unfortunate and I know (Gronkowski) is a better player than that."
White was not penalized on the play. Gronkowski was given a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, as were Bills safety Micah Hyde and Patriots receiver Danny Amendola for a separate skirmish. Additionally, Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes was penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct against an official.
Here’s what led to it: pic.twitter.com/hezuyPbWoQ
— Cameron DaSilva (@camdasilva) December 3, 2017
Rob Gronkowski lost his cool. What a dirty play. pic.twitter.com/b2gFWp03yj
— Cameron DaSilva (@camdasilva) December 3, 2017
The reaction was swift after the play, including from Hall of Famer Thurman Thomas.
Cheap, lowdown bs
— Thurman Thomas (@thurmanthomas) December 3, 2017
And here is the Bills' Twitter feed:
Not cool. https://t.co/yXIDz4jUEG
— Buffalo Bills (@buffalobills) December 3, 2017
Several Bills in the locker room spoke out against the hit.
"I didn't see it live and then I did see the replay of it, and the replay made it look really bad," center Eric Wood said. "I'm hoping he didn't think he was down and didn't just take a cheap shot, because that'd be a pretty bad move."
"It was a nasty and dirty play," running back LeSean McCoy said. "I’ve never seen him do it before. He’s a hell of a player and a good person, too. Surprising, but there are more important things to talk about."
Safety Jordan Poyer called Gronkowski's hit "unnecessary."
There's "nowhere in this league for that type of play," Poyer said. "I understand flames are going, heat of the battle, but there is no room in this league for that type of crap."
Poyer sounded surprised that Gronkowski wasn't ejected.
"I asked the ref why he wasn't ejected," he said. "I said, 'anybody else makes that type of play, they're ejected.' To me, it was blatant. He WWE'd him. It's like he was in the wrestling arena again. Like I said, uncalled for."
Dean Blandino, the NFL's former head of officiating and current rules analyst for FOX Sports, said Gronkowski should have been ejected and "I wouldn't be surprised if it's a substantial fine and maybe even a suspension going forward."
— FOX Sports (@FOXSports) December 3, 2017
Hyde, who was matched up against Gronkowski on several occasions Sunday, said, "I don't know what was going through his head on that play."
"Anytime someone does something like that, that's surprising. Obviously, be physical in between the lines and all that stuff, but to play like that – just touch him. He's down," Hyde said. "You don't need to fire your shoulder or elbow into him. That wasn't cool. ... Just no need for that in the game that we play."
The Bills meet the Patriots again in Week 16.
"I'm sure you guys will talk about it," Hyde said. "Building up to that game, that whole week, you guys are going to ask us about it, so this is obviously something that we're going to be thinking about then."