FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski's late hit on Buffalo Bills cornerback Tre'Davious White has been a hot-button topic, with White reigniting some of the discussion Thursday by calling Gronkowski a dirty player and sharing his opinion that a one-game suspension is "a joke."
Patriots players didn't respond directly Thursday to White's remarks, but did touch on how they view Gronkowski as a teammate from their experience with him.
"I'll definitely defend the character of Rob. Rob is a guy who is a tremendous player, a high-character guy who comes to work, loves his teammates, loves playing the game of football, and goes about playing the game the right way," fellow tight end Dwayne Allen said. "I've only had one year with Rob, but everything Rob has shown me this year has [been] a guy who loves the game of football, and goes about playing it the right way, and would not want to harm anyone. ... Rob is one of the greatest teammates I've been around."
Asked if he takes it to heart that one of his teammates has been the target of some sharp criticism, Allen said, "Absolutely; especially when you know a guy's character."
Safety Duron Harmon, one of the team's captains, also wouldn't respond to White's remarks.
"It's tough to comment on that because all in itself it's just bad, but I've known Gronk for five years now. Gronk is not only a tremendous football player but a tremendous teammate. Would do anything for you. Always has a smile on his face. Always doing the right thing," he said of the 28-year-old. "At that moment it didn't happen, but I wouldn't call Gronk a dirty player. Just a bad situation."
When it was mentioned to Harmon that it seemed to be out of character for Gronkowski to respond that way, he said, "Exactly; something that he doesn't do at all except that time. But all you can do is learn from it and move on from it. Standing in the past and just trying to go back and forth, that's not going to do anything. Learn from it, move forward and when he gets his opportunity to play again, play well."
As the Patriots attempt to do that without Gronkowski on Monday night against the Miami Dolphins (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN), they know the task is now harder without one of their best players.
"Not having 87 out there, that is huge. That's huge," Allen said, repeating himself. "But we're tasked throughout this week to find a way to win, to put together a game plan that we can go out there and execute at a high level and get the job done."