Rob Gronkowski has finally called it a career. Ten years, 521 receptions, 7,861 yards, and 79 touchdowns. A hall-of-fame career for the one they called, “Gronk.” I asked some of my friends the other day, what is the first thing they think of when they hear the name “Gronk” and their responses varied. Some said they thought of him doing his famous, “Gronk-Spike” while others said they thought of specific plays, like the catch he had this past super bowl. However, no one said, mentioned, or even remembered the cheap shot Gronk put on Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White back in 2017. Frankly, I didn’t expect them to.
In fact, when you think about it, it seems as though everyone has completely forgotten about how Gronkowski tried to take Tre White’s head off just two seasons ago. Well, everyone except Tre White. If you look through the comments on a post from the NFL’s official Instagram with Gronks final send-off, you may notice some comments from White.
As you can see from above, White wrote one comment with, “#neverforget” and the other, “He snuck me y’all” Almost broke me in half!! Great Player tho.” So, why does nobody seem to remember this dirty hit by Gronk? Well, here’s a game you can play with yourself. When you read the name, “Vontaze Burfict” what is the first thing you think of? Is it his dirty hit on Antonio Brown in a 2015 Wild Card game? Is it him rolling up on the knee of Le’Veon Bell? I’m sure regardless of what it is you thought of, it was probably a dirty hit or cheap shot. So, what if it said, “Peyton Manning” instead? I know that almost none of you probably would have thought of Mike Vanderjagt.
For those who forgot about this infamous moment in NFL history, or for those who were too young to remember it, here’s a brief overview. After the Indinapolis Colts lost in the 2002 playoffs, kicker Mike Vanderjagt said in an interview that he didn’t believe that head coach Tony Dungy and Peyton Manning could lead the Colts where they needed to go (the super bowl). When asked about it during the Pro Bowl on a live interview broadcasted on national TV, Manning famously responded by saying, “Here we are, I’m out at my third Pro Bowl…and we’re talking about our idiot kicker who got liquored up and ran his mouth off.” This caused a whole media frenzy where Vanderjagt publicly came out and said that he was not in fact, “liquored up.”
Vanderjagt was not speaking of his own head coach and teammate very highly. However, Peyton crossed the line. It was one of the very few blemishes in Peyton’s career. Yet, no one ever seems to think of it when talking about Peyton Manning. Now maybe it’s because it took place over 17 years ago. Personally, I think it’s because we know that Peyton Manning is a really good person. So, we forget about the bad and move on. Peyton is not a bad teammate, but rather he made a bad decision.
The same could be applied to Gronkowski and his hit on Tre White. Gronk is a good person and is beloved by Patriots fans. He’s great in the community and respected by players all across the league. Including Tre White himself as he noted in his Instagram comment at the end by saying, “Great Player tho.” This didn’t make Gronk a dirty player. Instead, Gronkowski made a really poor decision at that moment.
My main message is this: One dirty play doesn’t make you a dirty player, and one bad teammate moment, doesn’t make you known as a bad teammate. Should we forget what Gronk and Manning did? Of course not. However, the image or thoughts you had about these players before you read this article shouldn’t change. They are both excellent players who will be in Canton before we even know it. Just don’t forget that even the best aren’t perfect all of the time.
Mitch Broder is a contributor for The Buffalo Fanatics. To contact him, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or message him on Twitter @mitchell_brdoer