The NFL opened the season with referees missing a bunch of illegal hits to Cam Newton’s head

Cam Newton took a lot of hard hits during the NFL season opener on Thursday night. That wasn’t unexpected against a punishing Broncos defense, but several of those hits seemed to fit the textbook definition of helmet-to-helmet and just one of them was called a foul. With the Panthers driving for what they hoped would be a game-winning score, safety Darian Stewart lit into the reigning league MVP.

Newton is 6’5, 245 pounds, mind you. It takes a lot of effort to get under his chin. That penalty was offset by an intentional grounding penalty, giving the Panthers another chance at second-and-10.

This hit by Brandon Marshall, however ...

... was not called.

Nor was Von Miller’s late addition to the play on which Newton was sacked and injured in the third quarter.

Nor this play which also occurred on the Panthers’ final drive.

And in case you were wondering, no, Newton was not checked for a concussion. Last season, the NFL implemented independent injury spotters who have the power to stop games if they feel a player has suffered an injury like a concussion. The spotters missed several concussions last season, however, and Thursday’s game suggested that they haven’t shored up their process much in the offseason.

On Friday morning, an NFL spokesman released a statement saying that an unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant, two independent spotters and the Panthers' team physician all reviewed the play on which Newton drew the penalty and concluded "there were no indications of a concussion that would require further evaluation and the removal of the player from the game."

Newton's postgame press conference was delayed while he got treatment. When he took the podium, Newton demurred, saying that he didn't think he was being targeted during the game. He said that the Panthers asked him questions about his condition after the game, but that he didn't remember the questions because there were too many things going through his head.

"It's not my job to question the officials," Newton said. "I really like this officiating crew. So it wasn't something that I know they did intentionally, but it's not fun getting hit in the head."

He added: "I try to warn the refs every time I do get hit in the head, but if the flag is not called, then it's okay."

Panthers head coach Ron Rivera also sidestepped questions about the hits that Newton took, saying he needs to see the tape but that "the referees are doing the best job they can." Newton’s teammates were more outspoken.

The NFL says it is taking earnest steps towards reducing head injuries. The steps they have taken still don’t seem to be enough, however. Part of the problem may be that Newton’s reputation as a big, bruising runner makes referees treat him differently, but that shouldn’t be the case. The hits he took in Week 1 could have serious implications on his season.

If one of the NFL's biggest stars is found to have suffered and played with a concussion in Week 1, the league will face another avalanche of questions about how seriously it addressed head trauma. The NFL needs to be better at this.


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Broncos Defense is Flat Out Dirty

Everyone of those would have been called on Brady, Rogers, etc. The fact that the Broncos were allowed to get away with them earlier is why they kept doing it. That’s what dirty teams do.

They tried to rattle the QB, that's what literally every defense tries to do

Yeah there were head to head hits, so what? It’s football it happens on literally every play and is hardly ever called. Only reason we are noticing it is because Cam Newton is a well known player. How else are you gonna bring down someone that size? I’ll tell you from someone who actually played, you can’t do it with arm tackles. Hell, even shoulder first tackles and you’ll just bounce off. Players are coached to make the QB feel pain when you have the chance. Dirty or not it worked. Broncos Defense was lights out In the second half. Can’t say I feel all that bad for Cam after the way he runs his mouth and acts like a Diva all the time. This is football, time for him to grow up.

funny. i played too. i don't ever remember being taught that you tackle a guy by throwing your body head first at their head like a missile.

that is a good way to get yourself and the other guy hurt. and nobody tackles well in the nfl using arm tackles. that piss-poor form as well. anybody worth their salt is going to break those.

You're taught to level a QB and get the runner to the ground

That weak sauce won’t take down someone as big and athletic as Newton

no shit. and if you know how to tackle from the get you don't have to divert to crap technique and dirty play.

do you ever see luke kuechley leading with the crown of his helmet?

OMG stop Crying because you lost

Marshall’s hit on Cam was past the line of Scrimmage. On Robys hit Cam was a runner as well and the Stewart hit he was clearly aiming at his mid section before Cam lowered his body. You run Cam like a running back and then cry when he gets touched. Maybe you should watch FLAG FOOTBALL or GOLF.

I hope football, a game I love

dies to spite you.

Long live the internet tough guy

I started playing football as a kid in the late 1980’s and not one coach ever taught me that the proper way to "level a QB" is to launch head-first into the QB’s facemask. Nor would I expect any coach at any level to encourage that today as you can be flagged, suspended, fined, and/or ejected for doing so.

As for being taught how to take down a player bigger and stronger than you, launching yourself wildly at his head, hoping your own melon will stop him, might be the least effective and stupidest way to achieve that. Seeing that every football coach in existence has taught smaller players to go low and wrap up bigger player’s legs, my guess is that your only frame of reference for football are the 40+ year old NFL Films where Green Bay is constantly playing the Chiefs in low-def.

I suggest sticking with your well-coiffed Euros writhing on the pitch as if they just got hobbled by Kathy Bates, Gareth. But that’s not weak sauce…

the comedy of a guy with a welsh soccer fairy as their avatar using the words "weak sauce" in reference to a 6' 5", 250 lb monster of a qb

The comedy of someone using the term "soccer fairy"

look at the dude's avatar. lol guy looks like a prancing fairy with its hair up in some kind of bun.

Yeah, you really got me there, champ

You must be quite the looker behind your keyboard.

jesus christ

what a terrible take

Yeah there were head to head hits, so what?

It’s 2016, how can anyone possibly be saying this in this day and age?

You act like these players don't know the risk they take every time they ate step on the football field

Head to head hits happen to everyone on every single play.

Literally, head to head hits do not happen to everyone on every single play

No they don't

And there’s assuming the risk of the sport, and assuming that blatantly illegal hits like this will a. be eliminated or b. punished after the fact. What happened last night is not just part of the game.

Troy Polamalu discussed having almost 100 concussions every year, if you really watch the sport you'll see it happen on every play. Maybe not to the QB, but look in the trenches, and running backs.

Some of the hits were uncalled for, but you’re lying to yourself if you think these hits don’t happen all the time. Only coming to light because cam is a 6’4 250 defenseless QB

First off, if he had 100 concussions every year he'd likely be dead

So I don’t buy that. Two, these kind of shots don’t happen regularly, stop telling yourself that as this was targeting and not just regular high tackles, but even if they did it doesn’t mean it’s okay. Cam was clearly shaken up by it and yet people act as if everything is cool and this is SOP. It’s not, get out of that mentality.

Personally I think the problem is what's supposed to be keeping the players safe (helmets)

They should honestly not be allowed anymore as they’re the leading reason for consussuons in the league. Old helmets used to be simple, but now they’re just used as weapons. You won’t see hits like that anymore if you change head gear. Rugby doesn’t have anywhere near the number of concussions football does.

I hate this question but please tell me you're joking, right?

You think reverting to primitive helmets when 300 pound men are stronger and faster than ever will be some kind of solution?

I don't recall rugby having anywhere near the level of concussions that happen in the NFL

The helmet is what makes these hit so dangerous because players are more willing to launch themselves head first with a false sense of security

Don't worry

The NFL says it’s working on new helmet technology.

wow, you really are this way. It is not a joke or a bit you are pulling, it is just how you are lol


Can not find any supporting evidence to support your claim that rugby has a lower rate of concussions. On any level.

The quick search turns up statistics that indicate the occurrence of concussions in rugby is actually much higher than what occurs in football. Especially at the youth level.

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