On Monday, the league suspended Rob Gronkowski one game for his out-of-bounds, after-the-play dive into the back of Tre’Davious White’s head. Then, last night saw a physical and edgy game that featured several prominent moments, including Ryan Shazier being taken to a hospital by ambulance after a hit, and Joe Mixon leaving the game after a big hit.
It also included Juju Smith-Schuster peeling back to blindside Vontaze Burfict, slamming into him helmet-to-helmet and then standing over him and drawing another taunting penalty. It also included a hit by George Iloka on a touchdown pass to Antonio Brown, that was flagged as a hit on a defenseless receiver.
Today, the NFL also announced one-game suspensions for both Iloka and Smith-Schuster. You have to wonder what the standard is if all of these are viewed the same.
Iloka’s hit is the type that has been legislated recently. It’s a bang-bang play trying to prevent a touchdown. It’s a penalty. But there’s no malice aforethought. It wasn’t even, in the realm of hits on defenseless receivers, a particularly egregious one other than it happened in the same game on primetime as other events.
Smith-Schuster’s also happened during the course of a play, but could be considered dirty and unnecessary. He led with the helmet. Add the taunting and a game suspension is not surprising.
But Gronkowski’s? That wasn’t a football play. Not at all. And there’s a difference between an instantaneous reaction during a play and someone stutter-stepping to line up a wrestling slam into the back of the head of someone already laying on the ground out of bounds. It wasn’t in the normal range of what you would expect within the context of a play. It was, as someone far more expert than myself said, bullshit.
You wouldn’t expect someone to intentionally step on an arm. Ndamukong Suh got 2 games for that. Albert Haynesworth got 5 games for stomping on Andre Gurode’s face back in 2006. If you want to go further back to a similar play outside the scope of a normal football play, Charles Martin got 2 games for body slamming Jim McMahon after a play back in 1986.
Smith-Schuster should have gotten a game for his actions. But Gronk should have gotten more.