After the Panthers’ loss to the Denver Broncos 21-20 one of the most trending topics in the sports world was the hits that Cam Newton took and the NFL’s commitment to player safety.
During Thursday’s season, opener Cam Newton took at least four violent shots to the head. The last hit was the only one that drew a flag. That penalty was negated by a controversial intentional grounding call. There was concern in the media that the Panthers did not follow the proper steps in the concussion protocol. This seems like an odd take. There is no evidence that the team did not do its part in protecting Newton. After the final controversial hit there was a 2:22 delay. During this delay, while officials sorted out the offsetting penalties, Panthers’ doctors both on the field and in the booth reviewed the hit and checked out Newton. Newton was then able to return.
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According to Bryan Strickland at Panthers.com, head coach Ron Rivera was confident that the proper steps were taken. He had this to say:
“If anything happens in the game that looks questionable, our doctors and the independent (doctor) come together and look at it immediately on instant replay. That’s what happened, and based on what they saw on instant replay and looking at him on the field, the independent determined that he was OK to continue.”
The NFL and the NFLPA has announced that they will do an investigation to make sure that the concussion protocol was followed. That investigation is expected to show that the team followed the proper protocol. Rivera had this to say about the team’s procedure:
“The doctors went through the initial steps during the game, and then afterwards the doctors followed up with him. My understanding is that he had several exams by the doctors, and all of them he passed. So as far as my knowledge, he’s no longer in the protocol or never was in the protocol.”
It is true that it is a challenge for the officials to see everything from their vantage points and with the speed of the game. But with so many vicious hits missed, it would seem the refs are not doing their job.
Do the officials swallow their whistles because Newton is such a unique quarterback? The officials might view the 6’5″ quarterback differently. Head coach Ron Rivera compared it to the treatment of Shaquille O’Neal in the NBA. That Newton is so big the officials have a “he can take it” attitude. The officials have to do a better job of seeing these helmet to helmet plays and need to be consistent in calling them. Newton’s size should mean opposing players have a larger area to hit without going helmet to helmet. It should also be easier for the officials to see these hits and make these calls.
The most interesting and damning comments of the NFL came from Greg Olsen. Olsen seemed to hit the nail on the head and put some pressure on the League to clean up the hits against Cam. According to Bill Voth at Black and Blue Review, Olsen said:
“I think any time you talk about player safety, that’s obviously important, I just don’t think you can talk about player safety and have what unfolded. You can’t talk out of both side of your mouth.
Player safety sounds great, is a great offseason rallying cry, sounds awesome. But we got zero yards out of any of those hits. That’s the reality of it.”
Olsen is right. It was the NFL not protecting players. The Panthers did their part and followed the concussion protocol. Now the NFL officials need to do their part and make the proper calls.
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