The NFL implemented a new concussion policy this offseason, but apparently, the league decided not to use it on Cam Newton during the Panthers' 21-20 loss in Denver on Thursday night.
Fans around the country were wondering why Newton was allowed to stay in the game after taking a vicious hit to the head with just 37 seconds left in the game and the Panthers trailing 21-20.
The hit marked at least the fourth time that Newton took a shot to head during the game, which was notable for two reasons: The Broncos were never penalized any yards for the transgressions and Newton was never asked to enter concussion protocol.
Although those are both big issues, the second one is going to be a bigger problem for the NFL because it happened less than two months after the league strengthened its concussion policy.
Here's a look at the shots Newton took.
Before this year, there were concussion spotters, but the NFL decided to beef things up for 2016. The league announced in July that starting this season, both the NFL and NFLPA would designate a representative to monitor the implementation of concussion protocol and investigate potential violations.
With that new policy in place, the thought was that the league could avoid something like it had Thursday: a player taking repeated blows to the head without being asked to enter concussion protocol.
The league is so sensitive about concussions that concussion spotters even have the power to stop the game if they deem it necessary.
However, it doesn't appear that anyone stopped the game to check on Newton.
"They asked me questions, but nothing too serious," Newton said. "I don't know [what was asked], there's too much going through my head right now for me to remember what happened."
Newton then clarified that he wasn't actually asked any questions until after the game. Newton was also asked if he felt any different after the Broncos' loss compared to other losses.
"I feel shi--y," Newton said. "I just don't like to lose.
Anyway, the fact that Newton didn't appear to enter concussion protocol during the game Thursday came as a shock to thousands of NFL fans and members of the media who were surprised to see Newton stay in the game after being hit in the fourth quarter.
No concussion protocol for Cam? Yeah that new system works really well.— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) September 9, 2016
why even have concussion protocol.— PokeBlinn Go! (@NHLBlinn) September 9, 2016
The NFL has a concussion protocol unless it's an important moment— Bill Barnwell (@billbarnwell) September 9, 2016
How is Cam staying in?— Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) September 9, 2016
NFL's commitment to player safety™ doesn't apply to quarterbacks on fourth-quarter comeback drives.— Robert Klemko (@RobertKlemko) September 9, 2016
The hits on Newton were so egregious that fans started to joke about the fact that he didn't have to enter concussion protocol.
This is an amazing ending to the game. I wonder who gets to tell Cam Newton about it.— Sean Pendergast (@SeanTPendergast) September 9, 2016
This game had everything that makes the NFL great:— The Real @MBrooESQ (@MBrooESQ) September 9, 2016
Excessive Flags: ✔️
Bad Clock Management: ✔️
Undiagnosed Concussions: ✔️
Missed FGs: ✔️
That was a perfect NFL game: exciting, the teams battled, and it featured repeated helmet-to-helmet hits and maybe an undiagnosed concussion— Chris B. Brown (@smartfootball) September 9, 2016
This is what the inside of Cam Newton's skull looks like after tonight: pic.twitter.com/nXSdHyDUpR— Troy Machir (@TroyMachir) September 9, 2016
Concussion protocol will become a big story tomorrow unless Goodell leaks a different fake breaking news story to a media crony ASAP.— Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons) September 9, 2016
Even Mike Pereira, the NFL's former vice president of officiating, said the Newton hit is something that should probably be talked about.
Agree with @BillSimmons that there will be talk on how Cam stayed in the game after the helmet to helmet shot. Time of game shouldn't matter— Mike Pereira (@MikePereira) September 9, 2016
The fact that Newton didn't get sent into concussion protocol didn't sit well with NFL agent David Canter.
@AlbertBreer they don't care about player safety. We all know it. It's PR nonsense to cover asses— DEC Management (@davidcanter) September 9, 2016
As for the Broncos, they did get penalized once for hitting Newton in the head. However, the penalty didn't give the Panthers any yardage because it happened on a play where Newton was called for intentional grounding. Basically, Newton took a shot to the head, then was called for intentional grounding.
The two penalties offset each other and the down was replayed.
Newton definitely noticed that the officials weren't throwing any flags on the Broncos for their shots to the head.
"It's not my job to question the officials," Newton said after the game. "It wasn't something that I know they did intentionally, but it's not fun getting hit in the head."
Newton said he even told the refs that he was getting hit, but it didn't work.
"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."
The downside for Newton is that if one officiating crew lets an opposing defense beat up on Newton, other teams might start doing it down the road if they know they're not going to be penalized.
If you fail to provide in-game disincentives for those kind of QB kill shots (ie penalties), well, you'll continue to see them quite often— Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) September 9, 2016