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New England Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski is going to have a target on his back this weekend.

Patriots have legitimate reason to consider benching Rob Gronkowski

Ryan Wooden

New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski is integral to the Patriots offense operating at peak efficiency and for that reason in particular you can make a compelling case that New England should bench him on Sunday against the Buffalo Bills.

Gronkowski made the remarkably stupid decision to spear Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White in the back of the head with his shoulder at the end of a Week 13 victory over Buffalo. He’s since served a one-game suspension for his actions and acknowledged that there is no place for that sort of behavior, but the Bills are still seething over it.

White made mention of the fact that Gronkowski still hasn’t apologized for the cheap shot that resulted in a concussion for the rookie. And several of his teammates declared that they’d be keeping that play on file for when the two teams met again in December.

In other words, Gronkowski has painted a massive target on his own back (or knee, or head) and retaliation could be of major consequence to the Patriots. Which is why they need to consider taking him off the field to keep him protected or at least to be at the ready to do so if the outcome becomes a formality at any point either way.

The one saving grace that may protect Gronkowski from being cut down at the knees or taking a huge hit to the head is that the Bills are currently in possession of the final AFC Wild Card spot, so coach Sean McDermott is sure to be cautioning against anything that could get one of his players suspended. However, it’s not altogether uncommon for sensibility to go out the window when it comes to teammates trying to protect their own.

Of course, taking Gronkowski off the field is easier said than done for Bill Belichick and the Patriots with the franchise needing to close the season strong to secure home-field advantage in the AFC. But New England has had success without Gronkowski in the past and they could use the reps they have to give to get a younger player like Jacob Hollister some experience in a playoff-like environment.

Ultimately, it’s hard to imagine that Gronkowski wouldn’t play given those circumstances. Yet, you can still make a compelling argument that he should be sitting or that the Patriots at least have to be ready to take him out at a moment’s notice if any of the incentives that motivate the Bills to let bygones be bygones slips away on Sunday.