Cam Newton couldn't remember questions he was asked during postgame treatment
The Panthers quarterback took repeated head shots but never entered concussion protocol
The NFL wants you to believe they are very serious about player safety, especially when it comes to head injuries. But for reasons that defy explanation, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, who took numerous shots to the head during Thursday's regular-season opener, never entered the concussion protocol.
Instead, with the game on the line and time expiring, there was Newton, under center, leading the Panthers downfield to set up a game-winning field goal attempt. Afterwards, the story wasn't how the Broncos held on for a 21-20 victory, but how Newton was allowed to continue playing.
"The game was never stopped," Panthers spokesman Steven Drummond said Thursday night, via the Charlotte Observer. "We never got a call to the sideline and the independent neurologist never alerted us to stop the game."
On Friday morning, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy issued this statement to CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora:
"There was communication between medical personnel on the Carolina sideline, including the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant, and the two independent certified athletic trainer spotters in the booth. During stoppage in play while on-field officials were in the process of administrating penalties, the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant and team physician requested video from the spotters and reviewed the play. They concluded there were no indications of a concussion that would require further evaluation and the removal of the player from the game."
Meanwhile, Newton arrived late to his press conference because he was "getting some treatment." Details via Yahoo's Dan Wetzel:
The league MVP acknowledged he was asked a couple questions in what appears to have been some kind of concussion test, although he couldn't recall what was asked or who did the asking.
"I don't remember," Newton said. "Too much going through my head right now."
That's a troubling response, and one that should deeply trouble the league. Also troubling: That so many hits in and around Newton's head went uncalled.
"It's not my job to question the officials," the quarterback said. "I really like that officiating crew, so I know it wasn't something they did intentionally, but it isn't fun getting hit in the head."
But Panthers tight end Greg Olsen said he talked to Newton after the quarterback was hit in the head late in the game and everything seemed fine.
"I think he was OK. He definitely got hit in the head. But when I went down and talked to him, he was fine. He said, 'Yeah, I'm good, I'm good. I'm just catching my breath,'" Olsen said. "There was a penalty so we had time to collect ourselves. He's a tough dude. We all know that by now."
Center Ryan Kalil added: "He's one of the toughest guys I've ever played with. Whether he was hurting or not, I couldn't tell."
Of course, neither Olsen nor Kalil are doctors, and toughness is considered a badge of honor in a sport where men are modern-day gladiators.
"I try to warn the refs every time I do get hit in the head," Newton said. "But if the flag is not [thrown], then it's OK."
Actually, it's not. And until the league offers more than lip service on the issue, it will remain one of the game's biggest problems.
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