(Reuters) – New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski has been suspended for one game by the NFL for hitting Buffalo Bills cornerback Tre‘Davious White in the back of the head after a play was over during their game on Sunday.
White was on the ground after making an interception in the fourth quarter of the Patriots 23-3 win when Gronkowski ran up and dived onto White, driving his elbow into the back of the rookie’s head.
White had to leave the game to be evaluated for a head injury after the incident, which resulted in a penalty on Gronkowski but no ejection.
“Your actions were not incidental, could have been avoided and placed the opposing player at risk of serious injury,” Jon Runyan, the NFL’s vice president of football operations, said in a letter to the two-time Super Bowl champion on Monday.
“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 yesterday.”
Patriots coach Bill Belichick apologized to Bills coach Sean McDermott for the hit when the two shook hands on the field after the game.
Gronkowski, who will be eligible to return to the active roster following the team’s Dec. 11 Monday night game against the Miami Dolphins, also apologized after the game.
“I definitely want to apologize to number 27,” he said, referring to White.
“I‘m not in the business of that. It was a lot of frustration and I was just really frustrated at that moment and it just happened naturally through emotions and frustration.”
He said he was frustrated by the lack of penalties called on White and the Buffalo defense.
Gronkowski is expected to appeal the NFL’s decision to suspend him.
Reporting by Rory Carroll; Editing by Ken Ferris