Playing in his eighth season in a Patriots uniform, all-world tight end Rob Gronkowski has become adored by fans everywhere for his incredible on-field talents, and also for his larger-than-life personality. From his well-documented party lifestyle to his influence in pop culture via movies and television, Gronkowski is one of few athletes that has transcended his role in the sports arena. Sometimes, those lines can get blurred. Nobody has forgotten the WWE-style cheap shot Gronk laid on Bills corner-back Tre’Davious White on December 3. That hit earned Gronkowski a one-game suspension, which he served during the Patriots ugliest loss of the season against the Dolphins in week 14.
This week the Bills will travel to Foxborough with their season on the line. Even though there are huge playoff implications for both teams, much of the spotlight has been centered on Gronkowski and White. Of course, both teams are saying all the right things when asked about “the hit,” but there is definitely an underlying tension as it is still fresh in everyone’s minds.
“I’ve just been preparing all week, just like any other week,” Gronkowski told reporters on Friday. “Preparing for a big game on Sunday with the team, with the boys and just going to be ready for a hard-fought battle. Every single time we play the Bills they’re always battling hard. They’re always mentally tough. They’re always physically tough and this will be a big game Sunday. We’ve just got to keep on preparing. We’ve got another 48 more hours to go before kickoff so just make sure I’m ready to go.”
Tre’Davious White has even taken back his comments about Gronkowski being a dirty player.
“I’m going to do the same thing I’ve been doing,” White said. “I’m not going to change the way I play. I’m going out there and just get in his face and try to throw the timing off. I think I do a great job of doing that … and try to make the plays that my coaches and my teammates expect me to make.”
The only genuine commentary we have received from either side on this matter came from Bills offensive guard Richie Incognito, who isn’t exactly known for his political correctness.
“Obviously, there are going to be opportunities for guys to take shots this next game,” Incognito said Wednesday. “Gronkowski took his shot. Now it’s our defense’s chance to take their shots on him. When you do dumb stuff like he did, you open the door. The referees are a little more lenient because they know you got it coming. You’ve just got to be prepared to take it.”
The Hits Just Keep on Coming?
Incognito is all but guaranteeing somebody from the Bills defense is going to even the score on Sunday. Honestly, it’s a breath of fresh air amongst all the ‘coached’ answers one would expect in this situation. Of course, the Bills are going to look for their opportunity to defend their teammate. Fans should expect nothing less. However, both teams need to keep in mind that winning this game is far more important than any retribution for something that happened three weeks ago.
The Patriots are once again double-digit favorites at home this week. They can lock up the number one seed in the AFC with a win this week and with a win next week against the Jets. You can bet that they will keep their eye on the prize. One can only hope that the Bills do the same.
–Sam Puran is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage Sports Media. She covers the New England Patriots. Follow her on Twitter @S_Pats21