There is no way to excuse what happened after Tre'Davious White made his third interception of the season in Sunday's loss to New England. A dirty hit to the back of White's head by Rob Gronkowski, while the cornerback was lying on the ground, on a play that was dead, has now left the up and coming cornerback in the concussion protocol.
With just under five minutes left in the game on a 3rd-and-7 play, White, who was covering Rob Gronkowski, successfully positioned himself and made an acrobatic play pulling down a Tom Brady pass intended for Gronkowski.
White then fell to the ground and half his body was out of bounds rendering the play dead. Gronkowski, however, frustrated by what transpired on the play, ran at White from almost 10 yards away and put his full body weight behind his left forearm, which he drove into the back of White's head while he was lying prone on the ground and dove on top of the cornerback.
"I thought it was a good play by Tre'," said head coach Sean McDermott. "I wasn't happy with what ensued after that. I just don't think that there's any place for the game in that. It was unfortunate. I know that (Gronkowski) is a better player than that."
White's head was driven into the ground and bounced back up off the ground after the blow from Gronkowski. The cornerback was clearly knocked woozy on the foul play and was on the ground for several minutes before he was helped to his feet and escorted to the locker room for evaluation.
"It was unnecessary," said Preston Brown of the hit. "I don't know what they're going to do. It's not the game of football. He was obviously down and out of bounds. He decided to hit him late. It is what it is. We hope Tre's all right and that's all I can say about it."
Perhaps worst of all was Gronkowski was only assessed an unnecessary roughness penalty.
"I was very surprised he wasn't ejected," said Micah Hyde. "I felt like just seeing it on the replay and just seeing him. Tre'Davious was on the ground and he eyed him. He looked right at him and I don't know if it was his shoulder or elbow, but that was dirty."
"That's a dirty play at the end of the day, dropping on a guy like that who's clearly down, the play is over," said Lorenzo Alexander. "I don't know him, but it is what it is."
When Gronkowski was asked about the dead ball play for which he was penalized, the tight end tried to apologize and excuse his actions in the same sentence.
"First of all, I definitely want to apologize to number 27," said Gronkowski. "I'm not in the business of that, I mean, it was a lot of frustration and I was just really frustrated at that moment. It just happened naturally through emotions and frustration. Just want to apologize to Tre'Davious White. I don't really believe in types of shots like that but, just due to frustration process and the game of football, emotions, that's what happened."
The apology rang hollow in Buffalo's locker room.
"It's a dirty play. Apology or not, it's a dirty play," said Hyde. "There are two sides to the story. One is he's being held, the other is he's pushing off. It is what it is, we'll see him again in a few weeks and you guys will make this a story. I've been a part of plenty of games, whatever sport it may be, where there were dirty plays. You have to just put it past you."
The Bills avoided any talk of retribution when Buffalo travels to New England to play the Patriots in the rematch on Christmas Eve, but with the two games in close proximity and Buffalo's number one cornerback potentially out of the lineup, one could see that hit sticking with the Bills defense for a while.
"Everything that we do is in between the lines," said Alexander. "When you have an opportunity to get a big hit or take a shot, you take a shot or try to do it legally and between the lines. I think that's what we've always tried to do."