Gronk condemned for 'despicable' NFL cheap shot

Charles Robinson

If you were to build a tight end in an NFL workshop, it would be Rob Gronkowski.

He plays hard all the time. He masters every inch of a complex New England Patriots offense. He's gifted and loved by teammates.

And in what probably bonds him most to devoted football fans is his emotions are often indistinguishable from the fabric of the game he plays.

If he occasionally (or often) sounds like a teenage jock meathead who never had to grow up that's because he occasionally is a teenage jock meathead who never had to grow up.

But even the most well-intended emotions in football can undercut a player. Gronkowski fell victim to that Sunday, when he delivered one of the dirtiest hits we've seen in the NFL this season.

It was a moment that screamed for a suspension and significant fine, especially if the NFL is serious about protecting the health and safety of players.

The hit that Gronkowski has come under fire for. Pic: NFL/Getty

Not because Gronkowski has a reputation for being dirty – he doesn't – but because even an ideal player with a fairly clean record can't be allowed to make the foolish decision the Patriots tight end made Sunday.

It was a 265-pound flying elbow, to the back of the head of Buffalo Bills rookie cornerback Tre'Davious White.

A hit that came after the whistle and was delivered while White was on the ground half out of bounds – with no idea the blow was coming.

Gronkowski felt he was interfered with on the pass play that resulted in a Bills interception, unsnapping his chinstrap in disgust before diving into the back of White's head.

It was the titanium-plated definition of hitting a defenceless opponent, sending White into the concussion protocol while Gronkowski was inexplicably allowed to continue playing.

And that is what leaves the NFL in a spot where it has to make sure the point is driven home on protecting the brains of its players.

To his credit, Gronkowski appeared to be legitimately apologetic to White afterward, saying he reacted out of emotion and, "I'm not in the business of that."

"I don't really believe in types of shots like that," Gronkowski said.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick seemed to agree, being caught on video telling Bills head coach Sean McDermott of the hit, "It was [expletive]. I'm sorry. I apologise."