The NFL acted quickly Monday, suspending New England Patriots star Rob Gronkowski one game for a vicious late hit Sunday on Buffalo Bills rookie cornerback Tre'Davious White.
"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 a letter to Gronkowski. "The Competition Committee has clearly expressed its goal of 'eliminating flagrant hits that have no place in our game.' Those hits include the play you were involved in yesterday."
According to multiple reports, Gronkowski will appeal the one-game suspension. That appeal will be heard and decided by either James Thrash or Derrick Brooks. If the suspension is upheld, Gronkowski will lose a $281,250 game check.
Gronkowski's hit left White in the league's concussion protocol.
"I feel bad for him, especially if it ends up where he has to miss a game because of what happened yesterday," Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said. "He's been playing so well for us, and you hate to see something like that happen. He's a tough guy, he'll do whatever he can to get back, but I mean, that concussion protocol, it's pretty serious.
Gronkowski, an Amherst native, apologized to White after the game.
"First off I definitely want to apologize to No. 27," Gronkowski said in the locker room after New England's 23-3 win 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."
Gronkowski said his frustration came from feeling like he was interfered with on the play.
"I just don't understand why there was no flag," he said. "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."
After White came away with an interception of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, he was face down near the Patriots' sideline when Gronkowski drove his left elbow into the back of White's head. Several Bills spoke out in the locker room about the play.
There's "nowhere in this league for that type of play," Bills safety Jordan Poyer said. "I understand flames are going, heat of the battle, but there is no room in this league for that type of crap. ... To me, it was blatant. He WWE'd him. It's like he was in the wrestling arena again. Like I said, uncalled for."
Bills coach Sean McDermott said after the game that "I just don’t think there’s any place in the game for that, really. It’s unfortunate and I know he's a better player than that."
On Monday, McDermott tried to put the incident behind the team before Gronkowski's suspension was announced.
"Look, we've moved on," he said. "What's going to be is going to be with that situation. With all due respect to all your questions, the more I answer questions about that situation, the longer it lingers. I'm just being honest with you. And the more it becomes a distraction. We have to focus on us and the Indianapolis Colts. And that's what we've got to do moving forward."
While trying to put the issue behind him, McDermott did express satisfaction with how his team responded. Earlier in the day, Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly said on his weekly appearance with 97 Rock that was "surprised" that the Bills "didn't retaliate."
"We had three guys standing there," Kelly said. "When you see a shot like that, I don't care … If I'm the coach, yeah, you want to play smart, you don't want to play dirty, you don't want to get that penalty and all that. But boy, when you see something like that and it happens right in front of you, me as a quarterback, I might have ran over and gave him a good shot."
Kelly hinted at things being handled differently in his playing days.
"I tell you what, I remember back in the day … anytime anybody did something like that, whether it was me, or Thurman, or anybody, we were right there," he said. "Marv always said, 'Don't play dumb, don't play dirty.' ... But the thing is, you want to come to your defense of your boys."
After Gronkowski's hit, safety Jordan Poyer shoved the Patriots' tight end.
"I know what I saw," McDermott said. "And I'm also proud, to a point, of the poise that we showed. Because that's important as we build this thing that we're doing things the right way. The referees handle things and then we have to play within the rules. And so, like I said, we've moved on and I've answered your question and that's all I'm going to say about it."
Patriots coach Bill Belichick was doing a radio appearance Monday afternoon as the suspension was announced, but not surprisingly had little to say about it.
"A lot of times these get appealed and whether it does or doesn't, I don't know, but whatever point it's finalized, it's finalized, and that's what it will be," he told Boston's WEEI.