Rob Gronkowski unbending despite rash of pass-interference flags

ByMike Reiss ESPN logo
Friday, November 20, 2015

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski has been penalized four times for offensive pass interference this season, which leads the NFL. That's four more than he thinks he deserved.

"I'm not doing anything wrong," Gronkowski said Thursday, when asked what he can do differently to prevent OPI calls. "I'm playing football. ... I'm not changing my style."

Gronkowski picked up his fourth OPI call of the year in Sunday's victory over the New York Giants, as his 20-yard reception in the second quarter was negated for pushing off cornerback Trevin Wade.

In an Oct. 29 win over the Dolphins, Gronkowski was penalized for the same infraction, taking away a touchdown pass to receiver Julian Edelman. He also had two OPI calls in a Sept. 27 win over Jacksonville, erasing a 13-yard completion to receiver Danny Amendola and a 5-yard completion to running back James White.

In 2014, Gronkowski was penalized for OPI twice over the course of the entire season. Chicago Bears tight end Martellus Bennett and Jacksonville Jaguars receiver Cecil Shorts led the NFL with four OPI penalties apiece last season, according to ESPN Stats & Information, so Gronkowski has already matched their total in nine games.

There have been 81 OPI calls through Week 10 of the 2015 season. Last year, according to ESPN Stats & Information, there were 75 OPI calls through Week 10.

Asked whether he feels there has been a target on him this season, Gronkowski said, "I'm not sure what it is. I'm just going to keep playing how I've been playing; how I go out and practice and try and transition it to the games. ... It's been going on all year."

Gronkowski said he sometimes asks an official what led to the call because it's helpful to hear an explanation.

As for his frustration level with the calls, he said, "We're playing well as an offense. It's not that frustrating when I get the penalty and someone else makes a play on third-and-long. That definitely helps out right there, but got to just keep playing the game."

Speaking in general terms, and not specifically about Gronkowski, Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Friday that he sees OPI penalties being called with more consistency this season and that "the officials have really done a good job in cleaning up that whole rule."

Specific to Gronkowski, Belichick said he has "definitely changed the way that he's dealt with contact on those plays."

"I'd say Rob has done a really good job of trying to play within the rules and use techniques that are not illegal, that don't bring those calls," Belichick said. "We've had a couple of them, but I don't think they're the type of calls where you look at it and say, 'Well, they have to call this, you can't do that.' It's somewhere in that gray area, but it's over the line, so we've got to do a better job of coaching it."

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