The NFL Players Association officially announced an investigation into the handling of multiple hits to the head of Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton in the NFL’s opening game of the year.
While the NFLPA didn’t release further details into the reasoning for its investigation, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported earlier on Sunday that the union was concerned by the lack of safeguards to ensure it was safe for Newton continue playing.
Newton was on the receiving end of several helmet-to-helmet hits, but never missed a snap for the Panthers. One particularly brutal hit from Darian Stewart left Newton facedown on the turf and slow to get back to his feet.
"The NFLPA wants to know why Newton never received a cognitive exam on the sidelines despite suffering repeated blows to the head, and despite Newton appearing to clutch his head and have difficulty getting to his feet at times," La Canfora wrote.
The investigation is the first launched under a new concussion protocol that requires the NFL to also initiate a review. On Sunday, the league announced its own investigation in a statement:
"The NFL is committed to the proper application of the Concussion Protocol. In order to ensure that it is being uniformly applied across all 32 NFL teams, we have decided to initiate a review of the medical team’s response to the Cam Newton tackle, under the procedure set forth by the collective bargaining agreement. Under that procedure, representatives from the league and the player association will review the relevant documents and video and interview the involved parties to ensure that the Protocol was applied properly. It is important to note that initiation of this process does not mean that we have seen any evidence that the Protocol was applied improperly, but simply reflects our obligation to ensure the health and safety of our players."
One day after the game, an NFL spokesman told NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport that an unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant and team physician reviewed all of the hits absorbed by Newton and concluded there were no indications of a concussion to keep him from playing. The Panthers then said later on Friday that Newton passed four concussion tests after the game.
NFL.com’s Judy Battista also said that while the cameras didn’t show Newton undergoing evaluation after the hit from Stewart, medical officials did go to him during a stoppage of play of just over two minutes.
While Newton did not suffer a concussion in the game, his father Cecil Newton told ESPN he was "grossly disturbed" by the hits and Newton’s agent Bus Cook told La Canfora that he was bothered by them as well.
If the NFL and NFLPA disagree over wrongdoing and punishment at the conclusion of the investigations, an independent arbitrator would be asked to determine punishment.