Cam Newton: Super Bowl Rematch Shows New Concussion Protocol Still Has Some Shortcomings

Cam Newton is again at the center of a controversy, but this time it’s over concern for his well-being rather than ridicule for his questionable demeanor.

After being battered and bruised by a ferocious Denver Broncos defense all night in the Week 1 Super Bowl rematch, the Carolina Panthers’ quarterback was subjected to many hits to the head, as pointed out by SBNation, that should have been flagged as penalties.

Now Cam Newton is a big man, at 6-foot-5, 245 pounds, but even he can’t absorb multiple helmet-to-helmet hits and not feel some effects of that punishment by the end of four quarters. Perhaps his teammate Greg Olsen said it best after the game to USA TODAY.

“We’ve got to treat Cam like a quarterback,” Olsen said. “I know he’s the biggest guy on the field, but he’s still a quarterback.”

[Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images]

SportsCenter aptly pointed out the cumulative beating Newton took against Denver, and the numbers have to make Panthers fans cringe over their quarterback’s reckless abandon and the offensive line’s lackluster play.

But what this opening game showed more than anything else was that despite the amount of seemingly illegal hits administered to Cam Newton on Thursday night, the NFL’s battle cry of player safety fell by the wayside. Even Newton himself pointed this out after the game, carefully toeing the line between criticism and commentary.

One player that was seen repeatedly jawing with Cam Newton throughout the game was Broncos’ safety T.J. Ward. Though he pales in comparison to Newton physically, at just 5-foot-10, 200 pounds, Ward isn’t afraid to dish out some big hits and throw his body around out on the field. He described his team’s philosophy in the second half to USA TODAY after being burned by Newton for 36 yards and a touchdown on six carries in the opening 30 minutes.

“We wanted to make sure it got to him, so every time he ran, we tried to put a helmet or shoulder pads on him,” Ward said. “If he’s not going to slide, then we’re really going to put something on you. We’ve seen him limp throughout the game. So, that run stuff — you can’t do that all game with your quarterback.”

And that correlates with what fellow safety Darian Stewart, the man who doled out the vicious hit on Newton that has everyone talking, had to say after the game as well.

“I thought I (led) with the shoulder,” Stewart said. “But he’d been running the whole game, so I was unsure if he was a passer or if he was going to run. I just took the shot, man.”

It’s this gray area which allows the officiating crew to get off somewhat scot-free from the bevy of errors they made on Thursday night.

[Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images]

Cam Newton is the one quarterback who holds onto the ball longer than any other before truly declaring himself a runner or a passer. The Panthers design plays that allow Newton to delay until the mesh point of a hand-off or throw downfield to truly keep the defense guessing until the last possible moment. While that is effective in moving the ball and getting the looks the team desires, it also puts the quarterback in harm’s way more often than not. Cam Newton understands these risks, so it’s hard to put the blame entirely on the officials or the Broncos’ defenders.

Where this thing really got out of control was when Newton was allowed to continue playing without going through the NFL’s concussion protocol with 34 seconds left in the game. As the Charlotte Observer points out, “the new concussion protocol is in place to save all NFL teams from themselves in these very situations.”

Unfortunately, old habits die hard when it comes to the gladiator mentality of football players and those associated with the game. And as Cam Newton demonstrated on Thursday night, the NFL still has a long way to go to get things right.

[Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images]

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