Gronkowski: Would be nice if officials called offensive pass interference consistently


FOXBORO -- Rob Gronkowski was polite about it. He was as kind as he could be, sprinkling in a smile here and there, but it was clear he wasn't happy with officials who called Sunday's loss to the Panthers. He ripped them without ripping them.

This has been going on for some time now: Gronkowski gets flagged for an offensive pass interference penalty; he gets asked about it afterward; he shares his frustration; rinse and repeat. 

It's happened so frequently that he's become well-versed on the topic, and he now sounds like a polished politician when it comes up in his back-and-forths with members of the media. After being flagged against the Panthers on Sunday, Gronkowski showed his displeasure -- politely -- with the inconsistencies in what's called from crew to crew.

"It's a little inconsistent, that's the thing," he said. "If the consistency was there 100 percent, then I'd be cool whatever it is. But one week we're told we can play [and] it really isn't going to be called. They can hold and you can slap off their hands and then the next week it's if you touch the guy it's a P.I. I just wish I knew the consistency so then I can base my game off that in practice and be prepared for the game and know the rules going in . . ."

Quick Slants The Podcast: Great insight from Jerod Mayo with Tom Curran on the communication issues for the defense:

"I mean as long as you know what kind of game is going to be called from the beginning. My favorite time is when it's allowed to just be played. I can run, go full speed, the linebacker is ready for me, 'boom' we bump. It's just straight up football. Sometimes I feel like the game of football can get taken away. There's definitely [physicality] that's involved in getting open sometimes."

Gronkowski didn't pick up a single offensive pass interference penalty in his injury-shortened 2016 season, but he was called for a league-leading five (tied with Bucs receiver Mike Evans) in 2015. Between his rookie season in 2010 and 2014 he was flagged six times for offensive pass interference.

Because of his size, the manner in which he gets in and out of his routes, and due to the number of targets he sees, there are few in the league as prone to picking up those types of penalties. Evans is often near the top of the list. DeAndre Hopkins was called for offensive pass interference five times last season and has already picked up two more in 2017. 

Sunday's penalty called on Gronkowski came as he attempted an out-route while working against linebacker Luke Kuechly. It was very similar to two routes he ran to the opposite side of the formation against Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro in Week 2. Running directly at his defender, Gronkowski understands the leverage of the defender, gets into that defender's space, and then makes his break. 

Against Vaccaro, Gronkowski's route was viewed as legal. Against Kuechly, it wasn't. 

What may have gotten Gronkowski tagged versus the Panthers was that his left arm became extended as he separated from Kuechly's coverage. Upon a second viewing of the game, it looked as though Kuechly may have given Gronkowski's arm a subtle tug in order to get it extended, hence drawing the flag. 


When asked about that veteran maneuver, Gronkowski smiled as if he wanted to say something that he knew he shouldn't. 

"I mean I've felt everything before," he said. "I don't know. It just depends on the game."

Gronkowski explained that there are conversations he'll have with officials in order to get a feel for how a particular game is going to be called. 

"You definitely want to be in communication with everyone out on the field and you definitely want to know too, before the game [and] during the game, because you're not trying to get penalties like that," Gronkowski said. "It can stop the drive big time."

There's also work that can be done before the game to help give players an idea of which way the officials will be leaning, Gronkowski explained. It's not quite as time-intensive as studying an opposing defense, but Gronkowski knows it could make a difference in whether or not a drive is snuffed out by penalty yardage. 

"I mean coach [Bill Belichick] kind of gives us good tendency of what the refs are going to be like that game which is always super helpful," he said. "But I mean they do a tremendous job though. To do what they're doing, I don't even really get that frustrated over the P.I. calls. It's just playing football. But it's a tough job out there. Just like us players, it's a tough job out there too. You've just got to go with the flow of the game every game." 

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