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Volume 24 No. 219
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NFL Criticized For Lack Of Consistency In Suspensions For Illegal Hits, On-Field Misconduct

The one-game suspension handed out to Steelers WR JuJu Smith-Schuster brings to a total of 9 bans "given for on-field misconduct" this season, up from zero last year and three in '15, according to Jacob Feldman of SI.com. The "troublesome trend" comes amid an "emphasis on eliminating 'egregious hits'" this season. There also is a preference to "suspend players after the game rather than eject them during the game to allow time for careful consideration." However, the NFL is "wading into troubled waters, because now, rather than discussing how to make the game safer, fans are crying foul." Feldman wonders if either of the fouls committed by Smith-Schuster or Bengals S George Iloka, who had his own one-game suspension for a helmet-to-helmet hit overturned today, were "truly as egregious" as Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski hitting Bills CB Tre'Davious White on Sunday long after the play was over. Gronkowski also received a one-game suspension for his actions (SI.com, 12/6). In San Diego, Tom Krasovic writes the Smith-Schuster suspension made it "even more obvious" that Gronkowski "got off light." Gronkowski's hit "wasn’t a football play." It was a football player "delivering a violent blow to a defenseless person" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 12/6). ESPN’s Clinton Yates said Smith-Schuster is different than Gronkowski hitting a player who was "literally defenseless." Yates said the NFL gets "outside the context of football and you’re penalizing guys the same way for what they do within the natural confines of the game, that’s when you have a huge problem." Yates: "That’s the big inconsistency that makes people wince more than anything when you see this” ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 12/5).

TRACK RECORD SHOULDN'T MATTER: Showtime’s Boomer Esiason said he was fine with Gronkowski getting a one-game suspension "because there’s no history.” But Showtime's James Brown said, “If they’re talking about a culture change in the league and getting rid of the Neanderthal players -- and I like Gronk, who doesn’t? -- but that was as clear an indication of a violation. The punishment should be fair and equitable across the board, period. There’s no excuse for that” (“Inside the NFL,” Showtime, 12/5). WFAN-AM’s Maggie Gray said, "I don't think the league wants these star players suspended for longer, and if you don't have a track record they're going to give you benefit of the doubt. I would like to see what happens if Gronk ever pulled this again” (“We Need to Talk,” CBSSN, 12/15). NBCSN's Mike Florio said, "If it’s one game for Smith-Schuster, it should be two games or three games for Rob Gronkowski. What Smith-Schuster did was in the confines of an actual football play. It wasn't an attack on the opponent after the play ended” ("PFT," NBCSN, 12/6). CBS Sports Network's Adam Schein said Gronkowski’s hit "was not about football." Schein: "That was about Gronk being a jerk. There's no place for that in the NFL. Gronk doesn't have that in his past, but it doesn't even matter. That was egregious, that was scary. He deserved the suspension” (“Time To Schein,” CBSSN, 12/5). Meanwhile, BLEACHER REPORT's Mike Freeman writes Gronkowski's hit "should forever end all the 'just Gronk being Gronk' chatter." Gronkowski in the past "has been given a pass for his antics, but he crossed a line this time, endangering another player's health." That should "make everyone see Gronk through a different lens" (BLEACHERREPORT.com, 12/6).

MAKING A STATEMENT: ESPN's Michelle Beadle said, “If we are worried about people getting hurt, why do we act like a one-game suspension is the end of the world? If a one-game suspension even changes one dude from doing this again or preventing a dude from being stretchered off the field, is that such a big deal? ... Don't tell me with one face that you give one damn about these players, and then whine about, ‘My favorite player might sit out a game,’ because you are full of crap if that’s what you’re doing and you’re a hypocrite as much as anyone else" (“SportsNation,” ESPN, 12/5).