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Cam Newton’s ‘inner circle’ asking him to play safer

Cam Newton absorbs more punishment than any other quarterback in the NFL.

Minnesota Vikings v Carolina Panthers Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

When the Carolina Panthers face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday, it will be only the third time Cam Newton has missed a game in his NFL career. But even though he has proven himself to be one of the league’s most durable quarterbacks, his “inner circle” is advising he play safer, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Newton, 27, suffered a concussion in Week 4 on a two-point conversion, absorbing a big hit on the goal line from Atlanta Falcons linebacker Deion Jones that he seemingly didn’t need to take. But instead of quickly scoring and avoiding contact, Newton bulldozed his way for two points, and got hurt along the way.

The only other times Newton has missed a game in his NFL career both came in 2014, when he missed the season opener due to fractured ribs and one game in December after suffering two fractured vertebrae in a car crash.

According to Schefter, Newton has “acknowledged the message and said he will do a better job of protecting himself when he can.”

The problem for Newton is that protecting himself doesn’t mean the same as it does for most other quarterbacks. Since the beginning of the 2015 season, he has 188 rushing attempts. That’s more than triple any other quarterback during that span.

Still, in addition to the shots he takes as a runner, Newton also has the tendency to stand tall in the pocket and absorb punishment as a passer. Maybe it’s because of his size and abilities as a runner, but officials don’t seem to protect Newton the way they do other quarterbacks.

The combination is an amount of damage that no other quarterback in the NFL has to take.

Newton is still only in his sixth NFL season and the Panthers handed him a six-year, $118.47 million contract last summer. There’s no reason why he shouldn’t continue to be one of the league’s most dominant forces for years to come, so making sure he is healthy in those years has to become more of a priority for the reigning MVP.