Mike Mitchell: Why is Gronk elbow drop same punishment as Smith-Schuster block?

On Monday, the NFL suspended Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski one game for this cheap shot on Tre'Davious White that left the Bills cornerback with a concussion.

A day later, the league suspended JuJu Smith-Schuster one game for this hit on Vontaze Burfict.

"You are suspended for the dangerous and unsportsmanlike acts you committed during the fourth quarter of last night's game. Specifically, with 7:10 remaining, on a passing play to a running back, you lined up a defender and delivered a violent and unnecessary blindside shot to his head and neck area," NFL VP of Football Operations Jon Runyan wrote in a letter to Smith-Schuster explaining the decision. "You then 'celebrated' the play by standing over him and taunting him. The contact you made with your opponent placed the opposing player at risk of serious injury and could have been avoided. Your conduct following the hit fell far below the high standards of sportsmanship expected of an NFL player."

So, according to Runyan, Smith-Schuster was suspended for both the hit and the taunting that followed. Also suspended for a game: Bengals safety George Illoka, who, moments after Smith-Schuster leveled Burfict, tried to separate Antonio Brown's head from the rest of his body:

"... [Y]ou violently struck a defenseless receiver in the head and neck area," Runyan wrote in his letter to Iloka. "The Competition Committee has clearly expressed its goal of 'eliminating flagrant hits that have no place in our game' and has encouraged the League office to suspend offenders for egregious violations such as the one you committed last night."

But the issue, as always, is consistency. Steelers safety Mike Mitchell was the latest to make this point.

It's a fair point; when the rules seem arbitrary and haphazardly applied, the rule of law goes out the window. For instance, shortly after Smith-Schuster's punishment was announced, the Twitter police unearthed this hit by Falcons receiver Julio Jones delivered to Vikings safety Andrew Sendejo.

That hit appears to check the same boxes Runyan outlined to Smith-Schuster -- "...[Y]ou lined up a defender and delivered a violent and unnecessary blindside shot to his head and neck area..."

Jones wasn't flagged on the play. And perhaps he will be fined but there was no conversation about suspending him. Yes, Smith-Schuster's punishment also includes taunting Burfict after laying him out but Illoka only "violently struck a defenseless receiver in the head and neck area" and he was also suspended one game. 

Which brings us back to Mitchell.

"Listen, I never said [Gronkowski] was dirty," he tweeted. "I never mentioned his character I've only met him once and to be honest he seemed like a real chill guy. What I'm referring to is the actual incident. Look at the plays. [Smith-Schuster and Iloka] were making a football plays in football games during the PLAY. more specifically before the whistle. [Gronkowski's] play was a downed man post-whistle. I get the league having player safety [and] that's fine but don't tell me those are the same offense. It's not the same offense therefore the punishment shouldn't be the same. [Smith-Schuster and Iloka] should lose some cash but not their whole game check."

Mitchell's conclusion:

Mitchell isn't wrong -- about any of it.

CBS Sports Writer

Ryan Wilson has been an NFL writer for CBS Sports since June 2011, and he's covered five Super Bowls in that time. Ryan previously worked at AOL's FanHouse from start to finish, and Football Outsiders... Full Bio

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