The NFL and NFL Players Association will initiate an investigation to determine whether the sport’s concussion-testing procedures were applied properly to Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton during Thursday night’s season-opening game at Denver.
“The NFL is committed to the proper application of the Concussion Protocol,” the league said in a written statement Sunday morning. “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 those procedures, representatives from the league and the players 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.”
According to a person with knowledge of the situation, the NFLPA suspects that the procedures were not followed properly with Newton but the union has not yet formally concluded that, so it will look into the matter further. The union believes that the NFL’s previous declaration made Friday that the procedures were applied properly to Newton was premature, according to that person.
The NFL and NFLPA jointly monitor compliance with the sport’s concussion policy, under a new agreement put into effect this year. If they differ over whether the policy was applied properly in a particular case, the issue is resolved by an independent arbitrator selected by the two sides. Teams and individuals can be disciplined for violations of the concussion protocol. Sanctions against a team found to be in violation of the policy can include fines and the possible loss of draft choices.
The NFL issued a written statement Friday morning saying that medical personnel on hand at the game determined it was not necessary to have Newton removed from the game to undergo concussion testing. A league spokesman said Friday that the NFL believed that the concussion procedures were followed properly.
Newton was asked following the game whether he’d undergone concussion testing. He said at his postgame news conference that he’d been asked such questions after the game.
Newton absorbed several helmet-to-helmet hits during the game, including one by Broncos safety Darian Stewart late in the game that was penalized. Other helmet-to-helmet hits on Newton by the Broncos’ Von Miller and Brandon Marshall were not penalized although both — particularly Marshall’s — appeared to violate NFL rules. Stewart, Marshall and Miller are subject to potential fines by the NFL for the hits.