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Buffalo Bills coach Sean McDermott disputed Monday’s comments by Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly that Bills players did not adequately come to the defense of cornerback Tre’Davious White after he took an illegal hit Sunday from New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski.
The NFL suspended Gronkowski one game for the hit. He will appeal the penalty, a source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.
Kelly told Buffalo radio station 97 Rock on Monday that it “surprised him” that Bills players “did not retaliate” for the fourth-quarter hit, which landed White in the concussion protocol and resulted in Gronkowski’s being flagged for unnecessary roughness.
“We had three guys standing there,” Kelly said. “When you see a shot like that — if I’m the coach, yeah, you want to play smart, you don’t want to play dirty, you don’t want to get that penalty and all that. But boy, when you see something like that, and it happens right in front of you — me as a quarterback, I might have ran over and gave him a good shot.
“Yeah, I might have got a penalty for it, too. But I remember back in the day … anytime anybody did something like — whether it was me or [former Bills running back] Thurman [Thomas] or anybody — we were right there. [Former Bills coach] Marv [Levy] always said, ‘Don’t play dumb, don’t play dirty.’ But the thing is, you want to come to the defense of your boys. I guess they didn’t want to get a penalty also.”
Gronkowski dove and drove his left arm into the back of White’s helmet as the rookie cornerback lay face-first on the ground to secure the ball after intercepting Tom Brady late in New England’s 23-3 win.
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After the game, Gronkowski apologized for the hit and said it was fueled by frustration for what he felt should have been a defensive pass interference on the play by White. Bills safety Micah Hyde was among players calling Gronkowski’s hit “dirty” and expressing surprise that he was not ejected.
Gronkowski’s hit did not come without reaction from Buffalo. Safety Jordan Poyer shoved Gronkowski after he hit White, and linebacker Preston Brown and cornerback Lafayette Pitts stood near White and looked toward officials to throw a flag.
McDermott defended his players’ response to the play Monday.
“I know what I saw,” he said. “I’m also proud, to a point, of the poise that we showed. Because that’s important as we build this thing, that we’re doing things the right way. The referees handle things, and then we have to play within the rules.”
Former Bills safety Aaron Williams, who was fined for his role in a pregame altercation with the Patriots last season at Gillette Stadium, wrote on Twitter on Sunday that Bills players should have done more to retaliate against Gronkowski.
The flag against Gronkowski was one of four penalties on the play. Hyde and Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola were both called for unnecessary roughness for a separate altercation, and Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct for his behavior toward officials. The Bills began their next drive with a first-and-25.
McDermott declined comment Monday when asked if he had been in contact with the NFL about the hit.
“We’ve moved on,” he said. “What’s gonna be is gonna be with that situation. With all due respect to all the questions. The more I answer questions about that situation, the longer it lingers — I’m just being honest with you — and the more it becomes a distraction. We have to focus on us and the Indianapolis Colts.”