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Volume 24 No. 176
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NFL Contacts Panthers About Handling Of Cam Newton's Head Injury In Wild Card Game

NFL VP/Communications Brian McCarthy said that the league was "in contact with the Panthers’ medical staff about its handling" of QB Cam Newton, who "left for one play after taking a big hit" last night in the Wild Card game against the Saints before returning, according to Joseph Person of the CHARLOTTE OBSERVER. Newton after the hit walked toward the Panthers’ sideline and "sat down before getting to the bench area." Team doctors and trainers "checked on Newton and took him to the medical tent before clearing him to return." The NFL and the NFLPA announced changes to the concussion protocol last month that states if a player stumbles or falls while trying to stand they are "required to undergo a concussion evaluation in the locker room, not on the sideline." Panthers coach Ron Rivera said that Newton "took a seat at the urging of the sideline" so that backup QB Derek Anderson could have time to warm up (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 1/8). Newton said that the injury he suffered "was to his eye." Newton: "I know it was precautionary things for a concussion, but it wasn't a hit to the head it was my eye." ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert wrote even if the Panthers were "primarily concerned about Newton's eye, their decision to eschew a locker room trip -- at a time when they were trying to erase a deficit and advance in the postseason -- will merit a closer look by league and union officials" (ESPN.com, 1/7). 

TOUGH SITUATION FOR ALL INVOLVED: ESPN's Ryan Clark noted neither the Panthers nor the NFL wants a starting QB taken out in the fourth quarter of a tight playoff game. However, he said, "When you see him go down and he's got his head down on the ground and he's kneeling in the way that he is, it looks to me to be more serious than me having pellets in my eye. If we're going to be serious about player safety, that's a situation where he needs to be checked out by independent doctors.” ESPN's Tim Hasselbeck noted there is a "flaw" in the new concussion protocol, as teams want a backup QB "to be able to find his helmet, have a couple throws and then get a snap with the guy that's playing center." Hasselbeck said of Newton, "I guarantee you everybody's telling him, 'Get down,' so he's just going down." He did acknowledge that teams are "supposed to err on the side of caution, you're supposed to err on the side of protecting the players" (“NFL Primetime,” ESPN, 1/7). NBCSN's Chris Simms said, "I didn't feel like he was out of control walking over to the sideline. He took a knee. He was walking fine, took a knee, realized something was wrong with his eye. They told him to go down to the ground so they would stop play so they didn’t have to throw Derek Anderson in there in live-action. We’re very concerned about everyone else in the world. He didn’t seem that concussed on the 8-play, 68-yard touchdown drive two drives later, so everyone in my opinion needs to back off of it” ("PFT," NBCSN, 1/8).

JUST LIP SERVICE? USA TODAY's Nancy Armour writes the Panthers "made a mockery of the concussion protocol." Until the NFL "starts following its own rules and cracking down on teams who flout them, it’s all lip service." If the NFL is sincere about "protecting the long-term health and safety of its players -- or even just wants the appearance of it -- it needs to dock the Panthers a draft pick." Armour: "Send a message to them and every other team that keeping a player’s brain intact matters more than anything" (USA TODAY, 1/8). THE MMQB's Peter King writes, "This concussion protocol might just require an act of Congress to get right" (SI.com, 1/8). Concussion Legacy Foundation co-Founder & CEO Chris Nowinski tweeted, "This 'Cam Newton's visor poked him in the eye' is the greatest storyline in the history of sports. And I'm saying that as a former WWE wrestler. Watch the video, you don't collapse after that him because you need ice on your face. It's a #concussion." ESPN's Kevin Seifert: "They gave him a sideline concussion test. @NFL rules seem to call for locker room trip." The South Florida Sun Sentinel's Omar Kelly during the game tweeted, "If they don't take Cam Newton out this game the concussion protocol is a fraud." N.Y. Daily News' Pat Leonard: "NFL concussion protocol should have dictated taking out Cam Newton and examining him immediately after direct hit to his head. But if dazed Newton hadn’t dropped down to the field himself, no one would have done or said a thing. THAT’s the problem."