Rob Gronkowski was not ejected for his vicious late hit against Bills cornerback Tre'Davious White last season.
A new NFL rule passed Tuesday at the league's owners meetings appears to be an effort to right that wrong. Beginning with the 2018 season, an authorized member of the league's officiating department can instruct on-field officials to eject a player "for a flagrant non-football act when a foul for that act is called on the field."
Gronkowski, the Amherst native and star tight end for the New England Patriots, received a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty for delivering an elbow to the back of White's head well after a play in the fourth quarter of the Week 13 game between the two teams at New Era Field. He was not ejected. The new rule put in place Tuesday gives the replay official the authority to call for an ejection if there is a compelling reason shown on video.
Gronkowski was given a one-game suspension by the NFL for the hit.
Another example from the 2017 season of a play that could have inspired the rule change is Tampa Bay receiver Mike Evans' late hit on Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore, as seen below:
The replay official having the authority to eject players is one of three rules changes approved Tuesday by the NFL. The league also made permanent the spot of the ball at the 25-yard line following a touchback on a kickoff and also revamped the catch rule. The catch rule passed unanimously 32-0 and now says a receiver must maintain possession while "going to the ground," even if he apparently had control before he hit the ground.
The three-part test on a catch:
1: Secure control in his hands or arms prior to the ball touching the ground.
2: Touch the ground inbounds with both feet or with any part of his body other than his hands.
3: Once 1 and 2 are fulfilled, he also performs any act common to the game, such as tucking the ball away, extending it toward or over the goal line or the line of scrimmage, taking an additional step, turning upfield or avoiding or warding off an opponent, or he maintains control long enough to do so.
— Michael Signora (@NFLfootballinfo) March 27, 2018