Cam Newton was coming off a much-needed win for his Panthers, and he cut a jaunty figure in an eye-catching outfit during his postgame comments. But last season’s MVP was in far from a happy mood, as he claimed game officials were not doing enough to protect him from dangerous hits.
“It’s really taken the fun out of the game for me, honestly,” Newton told reporters after Carolina’s 30-20 victory over Arizona, “because, at times, I don’t even feel safe.”
“Enough is enough,” Newton said, adding that he intended to speak with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell about the issue. “I don’t think there’s a person that can go through what I go through and still keep their head, you know what I’m saying? Hits to the head, that’s one thing, but when you’re not protected in the pocket, that’s another thing. The story of my life ever since I came in [to the league] is just, ‘Oh, oh, well, we missed that one, I’m sorry.’ That’s bull crap.”
Newton specifically pointed to a third-quarter play in which the Cardinals’ Calais Campbell hit him in the lower right leg, causing the quarterback to twist awkwardly to the turf while grimacing in pain. Campbell even offered an apology when Newton got back up, but the Panthers star left the field fuming.
Cam Newton hit low by Calais Campbell and bent his leg awkwardly, Campbell apologized. No flag. pic.twitter.com/tmeCxa4oki
— The Cauldron (ICYMI) (@CauldronICYMI) October 30, 2016
Following Tom Brady’s season-ending knee injury in 2008, the NFL enacted a rule outlawing defenders from hits to quarterbacks in the pocket similar to the one Campbell made on Newton. According to Fox Sports analyst Mike Pereira, the league’s former head of officiating, the play could have been called for a penalty, although it came down to a judgment call by the referees.
This hit on Cam Newton should have been a penalty. pic.twitter.com/VA8Q3ooTvy
— Mike Pereira (@MikePereira) October 30, 2016
That lack of deference by the officials clearly irked Newton, even after his team came out ahead. “As players in this league, if we do something stupid, we get fined,” he told the media. “I just can’t keep accepting, ‘Oh, we missed that one’ or ‘I apologize for doing that’ or ‘I didn’t see it.’ That’s horse crap.
“Coming from a person who’s been fined before, coming from a person who everybody’s expecting a lot from, I’m still going,” Newton continued. “But yet, when you constantly see the hits, when you constantly see flags being picked up and flags not being thrown, and to see other quarterbacks getting it for lesser physical hits, then it’s taking the fun for me out.”
Newton added: “I could have torn my ACL — that’s the breaking point.”
The Panthers rested Newton for a game earlier this season, after he suffered a concussion while running into the end zone. However, both he and the team have been insistent that he won’t stop threatening defenses with his rushing ability, and the three-time Pro Bowler seemed resigned to the inevitability of “hits to the head.”
Like many football players — for better or worse — Newton appears more concerned about possibly missing an entire season with a major knee injury than getting a concussion, and while he understands the risks he takes when he leaves the pocket, he expects more protection when he stays within it. In Week 1, Newton took a number of head shots from the Broncos, only a few of which were penalized.
Newton is one of the NFL’s most impressive physical specimens, and certainly one of its biggest quarterbacks, which may influence referees to think he can absorb a higher degree of punishment than most. But Newton is also one of the league’s biggest stars — right there with Brady — and that alone could be reason for the NFL to send a message to its officiating crews to help him stay on the field, all the better to show up on highlight reels.