By DERON SNYDER
The Nonsensical Football League.
That’s what the NFL really stands for. Because trying to make sense of its judgment will drive you crazy.
Commissioner Roger Goodell & Co. long ago proved they don’t have a clue about meting out punishment. Suspensions have been scattershot. Rulings have been arbitrary. Logic and reason have been nonexistent.
Whether the subject is domestic violence, bounties, weed, or air pressure, the NFL usually gets it wrong, often in spectacular fashion.
There’s no better proof than events that transpired during Week 13.
It was among the most flagrantly dirty hits ever. It was one player clearly and maliciously attempting to injure an opponent. It was a violent, premeditated attack, personal and repulsive.
I’m not talking about the block that Pittsburgh’s JuJu Smith-Schuster put on Cincinnati’s Vontaze Burfict. Nor am I referencing the hit that Cincinnati’s George Ioka put on Pittsburgh’s Antonio Brown.
Those plays drew penalties and, subsequently, one-game suspensions. But those blows also were delivered within the game’s flow, arguably close to the letter of the law if not the spirit.
The same can’t be said of New England tight end Rob Gronkowski and what he did to Buffalo cornerback Tre’Davious White.
White was prone on the ground, out of bounds and on his stomach. The whistle had blown; the play was long over. Yet, here came Gronk, 265 pounds of menace, measuring his steps like a gymnast before the vault. He launched and drove his foreman into the back of White’s helmet, slamming the player’s head on the ground.
White left the game and was placed in concussion protocol.
But in its infinite wisdom, the Nonsensical Football League deemed that Smith-Schuster, Ioka and Gronkowski deserved one-game suspensions – even though Gronk’s hit occurred WELL after the play was dead.
Remember, Oakland’s Michael Crabtree and Denver Aqib Talib received two-game suspensions (halved on appeal) for fighting during Week 12. New England’s Tom Brady was suspended four games last season for Deflategate. Buffalo’s Seantrel Henderson received a 10-game suspension for using medical marijuana. New Orleans Jonathan Vilma was suspended for the entire 2012 season for Bountygate.
Gronkowski lost his appeal and will miss the Patriots’ game at Miami on Monday.
I wish White could’ve appealed the original suspension, arguing that one game was insufficient.
Gronk’s foul play was worthy of a multiple-game suspension. Maybe not the five games Albert Haynesworth got for stomping on an opponent’s face in 2006, but certainly more than Smith-Schuster and Ioka received.
Football is violent enough without after-the-whistle tactics straight from pro wrestling’s playbook. The Bengals-Steelers game was a depressing example of the danger players face when they step on the field.
Pittsburgh linebacker Ryan Shazier suffered a spinal injury while making a tackle and remained hospitalized on Wednesday. He was carted off, and so was Burfict. A chorus of voices decried the teams for excessive and unnecessarily violent play, another ding against a sport that’s reeling of late.
“This game is hard to watch for a number of reasons,” Hall-of-Fame quarterback Troy Aikman tweeted. “Terrible for the NFL and the game of football overall.”
The league can change the rules, utilize improved equipment and teach new techniques from now until Cleveland wins a Super Bowl. But the essence of football – large, fast, and padded men running into each – remains the same. There’s no getting around that, or the accompanying consequences (scrambled brains, broken limbs, shredded ligaments, etc.).
There’s also no escaping the fact that Goodell wields his unlimited power like a drunk man devoid of sensory perception.
On-field misconduct has led to 10 suspensions this season. According to Spotrac, there were none last year and only three in 2015. Clamping down on “egregious hits” was a point of emphasis entering this season, leading to the sharp increase.
But good luck telling the difference between plays that drew suspensions and similar plays that didn’t.
Rationale is lacking and consistency is imperceptible.
Of the 10 hits that led to missed paychecks, only one was somewhat comparable to Gronk’s. Tampa Bay’s Mike Evans got one game for blindsiding New Orleans’ Marshon Lattimore after a play ended.
But Lattimore wasn’t on the ground and Evans didn’t hit him in the head. The chances of causing serious injury were significantly higher when Gronkowski went ballistic on White. The cornerback was as defenseless as defenseless players can be.
I don’t care about that being a first-time offense, Gronk’s reputation as a “nice guy,” or the Bills giving him hands-on treatment all day. It’s inexcusable that he received just a one-game suspension, especially considering what transpired Monday night.
But that’s how the so-called “disciplinary system” works in the Nonsensical Football League.”
Don’t waste your time trying to figure it out.
That would be the definition of insanity.