Hannable: Rob Gronkowski got what he deserved with 1-game suspension and it could cost him millions

Ryan Hannable
December 04, 2017 - 11:26 pm

Timothy T. Ludwig/USA Today Sports

As expected, the NFL came down hard against Rob Gronkowski as he was suspended one game for his actions Sunday against the Bills.

Midway through the fourth quarter in the Patriots’ 23-3 win, after an interception of Tom Brady by the Bills' Tre'Davious White on a pass intended for Gronkowski, the tight end jumped towards White when he was on the ground giving him a forearm/elbow to the back of the head. 

“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 [Sunday].” ​

There’s no excuse for what Gronkowski did. No one can deny the tight end gets treated differently than any other pass-catcher in the league when it comes to pass interference, but him losing his cool was out of character and extremely unnecessary. 

Frustration is part of sports and over the years Gronkowski has done as good of a job as anyone playing through things, until Sunday.

This is something usually seen from players on teams like the Bills, Dolphins, Bengals, Browns and all the other undisciplined teams in the league, but hardly ever with the Patriots.

Not only did Gronkowski hit White after the play was over, it was the act of going at his head, which really made it bad. Acting on frustration with late pushing and shoving is part of the game and sports, but when you go at a vulnerable players head, there’s no place in the game for that.

Given the increased awareness of concussions and more attention being paid to them, the league didn’t really have a choice but to suspend Gronkowski even without any prior history with these types of things.

White was still in the concussion protocol as of Monday morning. 

The NFL actually got a suspension right with the Patriots.

While the suspension likely won’t impact the Patriots against the Dolphins next Monday night — New England already won in Week 5 without Gronkowski — it could impact Gronkowski financially in a big way.

Gronkowski’s contract was reworked this offseason and now on top of his base salary of $5.5 million the tight end has a three-tier incentive based structure of bonus money. 

With 55 catches for 849 yards and seven touchdowns this season, he’s already reached a $1.75 million bonus for going over 800 yards receiving. Currently with 849 yards, he should have no problem eclipsing 1,000 yards with three games remaining after the suspension, but that is where things get interesting.

With a 1,000-yard season, Gronkowski would make a total of $8.75 million, but that could rise to $10.75 million if he reaches the first tier. In order to do so, he would need to reach 90 percent play time (impossible after missing one game), or 80 catches, or 1,200 receiving yards or All-Pro.

In order to get to 1,200 yards, Gronkowski would need to average 117 yards receiving in the last three games of the season, which just doesn’t seem likely, especially considering he could be rested in Week 17 if the Patriots already are locked into a playoff spot. 

The wild card is being an All-Pro, which he seems to be battling Travis Kelce and Zach Ertz for. While Gronkowski likely is the favorite as of now, missing a game due to suspension doesn’t help his cause.

Gronkowski likely would have hit the first tier with yardage if not for the suspension, so if he isn’t an All-Pro, the one-game suspension could cost him $2 million on top of $281,250 in lost game salary.

The 28-year-old regretted his actions on Sunday and he certainly will regret them if in fact it is the difference in over $2 million.

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