The NFL needs to send a message by suspending Rob Gronkowski for his dirty, concussive hit on Tre’Davious White.

By Peter King
December 04, 2017
Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

1. I think my first reaction to Rob Gronkowski’s dirty hit was that he didn’t deserve a suspension. He’s no Vontaze Burfict, no gratuitous offender with a long track record. But then I went back and watched it eight or 10 times. It’s gruesome, a forearm shiver from a much bigger man to the back of the head of Tre’Davious White, the Buffalo cornerback. Suspensions should not be doled out easily. But in this era of football, when the ills of hits to the head and head trauma and concussions are rightfully and universally decried, the violence of a hit like Gronkowski’s has far-reaching implications.

• It left White with a suspected concussion. Knowing what we know about the dangers of concussions and how, once a concussion is suffered, future concussions can come easier, it’s inexcusable for a concussion to happen voluntarily. Gronkowski surely didn’t mean to concuss White, but whatever he meant doesn’t matter; it was a purposeful hit to the back of his head.

• The NFL has to show it’s serious about policing hits that result in concussions, particularly those that can be avoided. This is the perfect example of a hit that had nothing to do with football, and it could potentially plague White in the future. If the NFL lets this hit be adjudicated simply by a fine to a player making $6.75 million this season, what’s the lesson?

• A suspension hurts Gronkowski, and hurts the Patriots. To deter Gronkowski from ever doing it again, regardless of his frustration over officiating (he said that’s what made him boil over on Sunday in Buffalo), the league has to come down hard … and show Gronkowski that a simple apology isn’t enough, and show the rest of the NFL that there will be no tolerance for bush-league fouls like this.  

2. I think these are my quick thoughts on Week 13:

a. With the regular season 75 percent complete, my MVP top three: 1. Tom Brady, 2. Russell Wilson, 3. Carson Wentz. Why has Wilson jumped Wentz for the time being, despite having won two fewer games? The head-to-head performance Sunday night helped. But more than anything, it’s the fact that Wilson performs at such a high level with a line far inferior to Philadelphia’s.

b. How often does Alvin Kamara make tacklers miss—or make potential tacklers dive by him flailing at air? He is going to be a star in the league for a long time. Look at the way he just blew through the Kurt Coleman tackle for the Saints’ fourth touchdown against Carolina. It’s like Coleman, a sure tackler, wasn’t there.

c. It’s like the Giants’ defensive backs are playing with olive oil on their hands and arms and jerseys. Two absolutely gigantic drops of easy interceptions in Oakland.

d. Tremendous point by Tony Romo on Pats-Bills, with New England near the Buffalo goal line, and the picture showing Tom Brady fake-patting his center on left buttock. (There’s phraseology I never thought I’d use.) Romo made the point that when defensive players see the rapid movement of Brady’s left hand, they’ll think he’s about to start a silent snap count in a very noisy stadium. But if he doesn’t actually hit the center’s rear end but only appears to be hitting it, it’s going to fool the edge defenders and prevent them from getting a fast start off the snap of the ball. Very informative.

e. Big breakup of what looked to be a sure touchdown pass from Philip Rivers to Keenan Allen by Jason McCourty, who punched out the ball at the last moment. McCourty continues to show he absolutely was not washed up when the Titans let him go. 

f. When Anthony Lynn dreams, it’s not about winning the lottery. He dreams of a competent field-goal kicker walking through the doors of his practice facility in southern California.

g. Jermaine Kearse: Catch of the day, with his one-hander going to the ground on the sideline against the Chiefs, channeling his inner Doug Baldwin. He’s been a good pickup for the Jets.

h. Memo to FOX: More Chris Spielman. I love his passion and his realness on the games, calling out loafers and interpreting the why of football so well.

i. Lions-Ravens, second quarter, play-action TD pass from Joe Flacco to fullback Patrick Ricard, Spielman disgusted with Lions letting Ricard bleed free from the backfield, the same as with an earlier short TD to Ben Watson: “They [the Lions] just have no communication on that play. This is something that happens all the time. They cannot defend the play-action pass on goal-line and short yardage.”

j. I went back and looked at the first TD, to Watson. Almost exactly the same. And the Lions didn’t cover Watson either. Crazy.

k. Detroit, biggest underachievers in the NFL the past three years: 7-9, 9-8, 6-6. Talk about a franchise wasting the prime of a franchise quarterback’s years. This is Matt Stafford’s ninth season. He turns 30 Feb. 7. He’s taken significant abuse.

l. Stafford isn’t without blame here, though. He was, at best, average on Sunday before going out with a hand injury.

m. Great third-down pass breakup by Minnesota cornerback Mackensie Alexander off Matt Ryan, in a key late-first-half spot.

n. There is no one better than DeAndre Hopkins on the toe-tap on the sidelines … and that includes Julio Jones. Jones might be as good, but he’s not better than Hopkins. No one is.

o. Terrific run defense by Tennessee defensive end Austin Williams, smothering Albert Blue of Houston to force a Houston field goal in a tie game.

p. Kyle Fuller hasn’t had many good games for the Bears in his career, but Sunday was one of them. Great cutdown of Carlos Hyde to prevent a second-and-one end-sweep conversion with the Niners threatening.

q. Horrendous lunging, diving, almost-to-the-ground desperate interception returned for touchdown thrown by Jameis Winston at Green Bay. This is a continuing problem with Winston. This is three years of the occasional brain-cramp throw. That’s got to end, or a potentially starry career will never happen.

r. Yet Winston made some strong plays in the game. All is not lost. He’s just got to take coaching.

s. Man, Jimmy and Dee Haslam want to keep the front office and coaching staff for another year. They don’t want to blow it up again. But this iteration of the Browns is 1-27 with Green Bay and Baltimore at home, then Chicago and Pittsburgh on the road. My gut feeling is the Haslams will do something of either partial or complete deconstruction, and be miserable doing it.

t. I wonder what gives Haslam, the biggest booster of the woebegone Vols there is, more pain: His college Tennessee Volunteers or his professional Cleveland Browns.

u. Cleveland at Chicago. Christmas Eve. Noon. Soldier Field. Provide your own laugh track.  

v. Look at the stunting in the run game Joey Bosa did against Cleveland, smashing Duke Johnson to the ground for a loss. Bosa just doesn’t have a weakness to his game—including his instincts. They’re veteran instincts.

3. I think those close to the process believe the Roger Goodell contract extension will be finished by the time owners meet in Dallas on Dec. 13. It may even be done early this week, after the six members of the Compensation Committee finish calling the other 26 owners in the league. I’m told all six committee members are in favor of the final iteration of the Goodell contract, and the final few calls to owners could result in minor changes. According to one source close to the process, the message from the committee to owners is they want to put this to bed so they can focus more “on the important things we need to do as a league. There’s a common feeling in these conversations—the owners want to address TV ratings, attendance, no-shows, the anthem issues, civil rights issues. Basically, the owners want to get on with it.” Does Jerry Jones have time to mount any organized opposition to the Goodell deal? Does he want to still? Time is of the essence now.

4. I think it’s great that Arizona State picked Herman Edwards to be its football coach, and I mean that. I’ve known Edwards for 20 years, and he’s one of the most genuine and good-hearted people I know in any walk of life, and the players he imports to the program will be better human beings for knowing him. Now, as far as winning, I have no idea. Can he recruit? Can he get a good staff to teach and coach the recruits, especially in a big-league conference like the Pac-12? I just don’t know. And while I appreciated the fact that ASU is going to run the program like an NFL team, this definition of the formation of the new programs sounds a tad complex: “The department's New Leadership Model will be similar to an NFL approach using a general manager structure. It's a collaborative approach to managing the ASU football program that includes sport and administrative divisions, which will operate as distinct but collective units focused on elevating all aspects of Sun Devil Football. This structure will allow the department to form a multi-layered method to the talent evaluation and recruiting processes, increase its emphasis on both student-athlete and coach development and retention, and provide a boost in resource allocation and generation.” I truly don’t know what it means. I do know, Herm, you’d better have a quarterback.

5. I think I love every Charger uniform. The sky blue is my favorite. A very close second: Sunday’s deep-blue jerseys, deep-blue pants, deep-blue socks. Sartorially, the Chargers are running away with the AFC West. 

6. I think this is one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a while—the combined forces of Sports Illustrated, CBS Sports and the NFL Players Association to find the NFL’s Most Valuable Performer off the field. You’ll see an NFL player who juggles, another who plays the violin, another channeling his inner Jimi Hendrix. The video alone is worth the price of admission. Lucky for you, it’s free. 

7. I think it’d be nice to read this sort of column—in Time, Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy wrote about how protesting NFL players are patriots—from an NFL coach. Writes Van Gundy: “Colin Kaepernick has been denied employment for the act of taking a knee to draw attention to the issue of police killings of men of color. Tommie Smith and John Carlos were denied employment and advancement in their post-athletic careers because they raised a fist on the victory stand at the 1968 Olympics. These athletes and many others are risking future contracts and endorsement opportunities to speak out on issues of racial injustice because they feel duty-bound to do so. These are patriots of the highest order.”

8. I think these would have been my four for the NCAA playoff: Clemson, Georgia, Oklahoma, Alabama … setting up Alabama-Clemson in the national playoffs for the third straight year. Take the over; 85 and 66 points scored in the previous two bowl games between the two.

9. I think, regarding Albert Breer University, I really don’t see how a two-loss team with a 31-point loss to unranked Iowa has much of a case to jump 11-1 Alabama, scarred only by a 12-point loss to an Auburn team that entered play Saturday ranked second by the college football playoff committee. I know Ohio State’s schedule was tougher, but I just can’t get over Iowa 55, Ohio State 24.

10. I think these are my other thoughts of the week:

a. Story of the Week, by John Woodrow Cox of the Washington Post, “The wounds they carry,” about six Las Vegas-area high school students who went to the Route 91 Harvest music festival … and the scars they carry with them from the mass shooting two months ago. Cox follows the students to their Homecoming weekend, and the effects of the shooting. Harrowing.

b. Is it time yet to discuss anything pertaining to gun control or limiting the type of weapons or accessories use to perpetrate mass murder by shooting? Or are we still in thoughts-and-prayers mode? Do something, Washington. Have some guts.

c. The cost of Christmas trees has doubled in eight years. Nice look at it by Tiffany Hsu of the New York Times.

d. Hello, Meredith Corp. Be good to your new properties at Time Inc.

e. NFL Journalism of the Week, from Deadspin, on one of the firms overseeing the dispersal of money the NFL is using for the civil rights donations it’s making to players.

f. The problem with groups overseeing supposedly wonderful and worthy and transparent donations and causes is that if they too are not altogether transparent and wonderful and worthy as well, it looks like a sham.

g. Perhaps You’d Like To Have That Headline Back Headline of the Week: “Rose’s departure would be a huge loss for the NBA,” on I empathize with the multiple injuries Derrick Rose has been through, and the anguish that he must have gone through (and must be going through now) while being injured so much since being NBA MVP, what, six years ago? But Rose, who has taken a leave from the Cavs, has played in 42 percent of his team’s games over the past six seasons. How possibly could he be a huge loss for NBA? He’d have been a huge loss in 2012 or ’13. But time marches on. The NBA’s been growing pretty well without him.

h. Coffeenerdness: Best coffee-related value of my year: Bought a 12-ounce Hydro Flask (one of those great thermal double-walled drink containers) for the morning coffee, and the best thing I can say about it is it keeps the Italian Roast tasting like fresh, piping-hot Italian Roast for a good three hours. I’m sort of a slow coffee drinker, and it’s annoying with a ceramic cup to have to microwave the coffee three or four times in 90 minutes.

i. Beernerdness: Had the Two Roads Holiday Ale (Two Roads Brewing Company, Stratford, Conn.) at a restaurant in Stratford the other night, and found it distinctive and lighter than a normal holiday ale, which I liked. Malty. Not memorable, but a nice dinner beer.

j. There is only one word for the college football coaching business, in which Jimbo Fisher, coming off a 5-6 season at Florida State, gets hired/legally hijacked by Texas A&M for a salary actually close to Bill Belichick’s: insanity. Three words, actually: absolute friggin’ insanity.

k. Run, or drive fast, to see Three Billboards in Ebbing, Missouri. I’m not a filmofile, but I do recall Frances McDormand’s common-sense greatness from Fargo, and this movie’s brutality reminds me of that one (no wood-chipper here, though). After a cold case of the rape and murder of her daughter is basically abandoned in a small Missouri town, Mildred Hayes (McDormand) begins to attack it. She begins with three billboards in Ebbing, Mo. Thus the title. It’s a bit uncomfortable, but it’s one of the best movies I’ve seen in a while. Go.

l. I believe I have these things in common with Matt Lauer, and these things only: We were born in 1957, went to Ohio University in the mid-’70s to pursue media careers, left Athens in 1979, and ended up working in New York for big media companies.

m. Man, are there any married men left who didn’t hit on younger women? This is awful.

n. RIP, Jim Nabors. “Gomer Pyle, USMC,” about a country kid becoming a Marine, was a fixture in the King house from 1964 to 1969, which explains my weirdo sense of humor. Good man, that Jim Nabors. Amazing, to look back on it, that TV could have made a sitcom about Marine life in the ’60s and, to the best of my memory, never mention “Vietnam.” 

o. By the way, Gomer Pyle’s girlfriend from back home in North Carolina had the best girlfriend name in TV history: Lou Ann Poovie.

Who I Like Tonight

Pittsburgh 27, Cincinnati 20. Still gawking at Antonio Brown from the past couple weeks, with his five touchdowns and 20 catches and 313 yards. What’s amazing about Brown is how productive he is when everyone in the stadium knows he’s going to get the ball. They’ll know in Cincinnati too. The Bengals have handled Brown quite respectably in the past three meetings. In fact, Brown had 169 yards and two touchdown catches last week … and he has 162 yards and one touchdown, only, in his last three games against the physical Bengals. I look for Dre Kirkpatrick and Adam Jones to be physical with Brown tonight, and I’m sure Vontaze Burfict will stop by the say hello early in the first quarter too. I just don’t think it’ll be enough for Cincy to win the game.

The Adieu Haiku

The Goodell contract:
It’s a fait accompli, folks.
Jerry wants to puke.

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