Today, the NFL announced it would suspend Steelers rookie receiver Juju Smith-Schuster one game for his hit on the Bengals’ linebacker Vontaze Burfict Monday night.
This is the same punishment Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski received for his late hit on Bills corner Tre’Davious White.
These two hits are COMPLETELY different and in no way do they warrant the same punishment. Smith-Schuster’s hit on Burfict was a classic football play, he laid an enormous block for his running back in the middle of a play where that block made a difference in the play’s outcome. Now, under the NFL’s new(ish) rules about defenseless players yes there is a violation and it was correct for the flags to be thrown, but anyone including Jon Gruden who immediately started shouting that Juju should have been ejected is about as ridiculous as they come. He broke one of the NFL’s rules and it was handled by the officials on the field appropriately. The part where league punishment begins to make sense is when Smith-Schuster stood over Burfict after absolutely annihilating him. As reminiscent of football’s ruthless glory days as it was… it’s not a great look and a hefty fine would have been an appropriate punishment and would have sent the league’s message to Juju and other players alike. A one game suspension however, is overdoing it significantly especially for a rookie first time offender who is known throughout his organization (and to an extent the league) as a nice guy without a malicious bone in his body.
Gronkowski on the other hand is hard to defend. He put all of his 265 pounds into the head of a 176 pound corner…after the play…while the guy was on the ground…bad look. Gronk said that he was frustrated with the officiating and ended up taking it out on White which he later apologized for. I’m a huge Gronk guy he’s hilarious and one of the most entertaining players in the league, but I don’t think that excuse flies. Were there some missed pass interference calls? Probably. Does that excuse an obviously late cheap shot? Not a chance Gronk. This hit is not even close to Juju’s hit and in my mind is a two game suspension minimum. It has all the criteria for a multi game suspension in that it was late, a hit to the head, and intentional. If I’m Roger (and thank God I’m not) I hit Gronk with a three game suspension and consider reducing it to two with an apology and an appeal.
These two hits couldn’t be more deserving of two entirely different punishments and Roger Goodell is an idiot for not being able to figure that out. But until I’m commish enjoy this video of Antonio Brown calling Juju’s hit on Burfict karma.