By Andrew Zuhosky
Did anyone happen to see the Carolina Panthers vs. Denver Broncos game last Thursday night? If you did, you also probably saw Panthers quarterback Cam Newton take some nasty hits to the head.
This was a bad-to-worse situation for the NFL, especially on a night where the Broncos were honored for winning last year’s Super Bowl, complete with appearances from legendary Broncos quarterback-turned-general manager John Elway and recently retired quarterback Peyton Manning.
Newton was hit in the head on 17 instances during Thursday night’s ballgame, three of which were sacks. To make matters worse, the officials mostly did not penalize the Broncos defense, nor did the Panthers remove Newton from the game.
Newton was asked about the absence of calls on his hits to the head in the postgame press conference.
“It’s not my job to question the officials”, Newton told the media. “I really like this officiating crew, so it wasn’t something I know that they did intentionally.”
He also told the press that he tries to tell the officiating crew in the event that he gets hit.
“If the flag is not called, then it’s OK,” he said.
Newton later informed the press that he was asked questions after the game but was unable to recall them at the time of the press conference.
On Sunday, the NFL Players Association announced that it would review the medical staff’s handling of the situation.
The NFLPA released a statement by Brian McCarthy indicating that the league and Players Association would take a look at all pertinent video and paperwork to see whether or not the concussion protocol was followed to the letter.
Even NFL Network’s Steve Mariucci, who serves on the NFL’s Player Safety Advisory Panel, weighed in on the controversy on last Sunday’s season premiere of “NFL GameDay Morning.”
“The hit that was helmet-to-helmet, the offsetting penalties, that one is what we’re going to discuss next week with this panel because it seems to me that a helmet-to-helmet should override any other penalty because that’s what we’re trying to eliminate from our game,” Mariucci said on air.
I agree wholeheartedly with Steve Mariucci there. Vicious blows to the head, much like the ones Cam Newton took a week ago on national TV, do not belong in football, level or league notwithstanding.
These kinds of hits can cause irreversible damage and can cost someone their life.
The mishandling of this situation is particularly shocking, especially in an era of the NFL where the safety of the athletes who play the game is routinely touted as a number one priority.
If I had been in Panthers head coach Ron Rivera’s position during last week’s game, I’d have called Cam Newton over to the sideline during a break in the action and told him, “Cam, I’m taking you out of the game. You’re getting beat up, and I don’t want you out for a long period of time as the season progresses.”
Newton stayed in at quarterback for the entire game with the Panthers ultimately losing the contest 21-20.
The decision to not flag most of the dirty hits Newton absorbed sends a bad message to young football players who were watching the game. They’ll think “OK, since the Broncos weren’t flagged on those plays, my team can get away with it, too.”
Like I said before, those hits have no place in football, and Newton should have been taken out of the game.