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NFL Disgraces its Player Safety Message by Allowing Headhunting Against Cam Newton

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There are no two ways about it. The officiating crew in the week one game between the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos allowed Cam Newton to take repeated shots to the head, without repercussion.

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Denver Broncos
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Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

This article was going to be written regardless of the game’s outcome. The result doesn’t matter to me, and I don’t think it matters to any fan of the Carolina Panthers, or anyone who wants to see a football player live a full life. A man’s well-being was endangered last night. It was done willfully and with full intent... and the NFL turned a blind eye to it through their officiating crew.

Cam Newton was specifically targeted last night.

He sustained at least five uncalled blows to the head, most of which were helmet to helmet, some of which were blatant launching and in full view of at least one official.

Need help remembering? Here you go sports fan...

Nothing to dispute there. No ticky tack no calls... no accidents... just pure bludgeoning of the reigning MVPs head, and one damn yellow hankie to show for it, which was offset by a grounding call on the Panthers as Cam ran for his life. Personal fouls should only offset other personal fouls, but that is a discussion for another time. The real sticking point is the message being sent by the Denver Broncos and the NFL:

Hit everyone in the head, and pay your trivial fine later.

Or “Shoot first, ask questions later” whichever you prefer. In a game where teams are so very close in overall ability and coaching, any edge you can gain can certainly tip the scales in your favor. Whether it is taking a few PSI out of a football, or repeatedly hitting a guy in the head... if you’re getting away with it, there is very little reason to not do it. I can only assume that by the third, and most obvious, blow to the head... Denver figured out they weren’t going to be penalized, so they just went nuts.

This is of course despite lengthy and expensive investigations and policies by the league to specifically weed out and punish these infractions. None of that was displayed last night. Heck, we saw more of a point of emphasis on the ridiculous “taunting” penalty called against Trai Turner after the first touchdown. Ultimately completely as harmless as it was ridiculous, but the referee crew saw fit to enforce that.

How does the league fix it moving forward?

The league owes the Carolina Panthers and Cam Newton an official apology for their lack of enforcement of the rules in this game. They must fully acknowledge that their negligence endangered the health of a player, and that the officiating on display during the game will not be tolerated going forward.

The league should heavily fine and suspend Broncos players involved for various amounts and lengths based on the blatancy of their offense. A five figure fine won’t do it. Von Miller makes a nine-figure salary, none of the other guys make less than seven. A message must be sent that there are real repercussions for blatant offenses that endanger a player’s career.

The officiating crew should be suspended for at least one game, and be declared ineligible for post-season work this year.

The league must make a commitment to protect ALL quarterbacks (and players) equally, regardless of tenure, play-style, mobility, size, etc.

The players and their families deserve to feel protected when they take the field.

Cam Newton has an infant son. He is a hero to many that he’ll never even know their names, but most of all he is a father and a loved one. He bears a burden shared by many players, many fans, many people who work in dangerous professions... the burden of going home safely to the ones you love. All the money, fame, and natural gifts given him don’t change that fact.

The players and their union should unite around him.

If Cam Newton is vulnerable, so are the rest of them. You cannot have selective enforcement. It doesn’t matter at all that Cam Newton is the largest quarterback in the league and has proven he can take hits... his head is no stronger than the rest of ours. One good clack the wrong way, and Chosen (Newton’s son) might never know his father, or only know a shell of a great man.

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is real.

It couldn’t be more real. All the horrors you hear about can become realities. The list of confirmed cases of CTE in both living and non-living players grows larger by the day. We have watched several players with potential for greatness walk away from the game well before their time due to concerns about it.

Did the players sign up to play the game likely know the risks to their bodies? I would say most certainly did, or at least had a hunch.

Does that mean they should not be protected as best the rules and technology can allow? Heck No.

How the NFL handles this incident going forward is going to tell us a lot about their actual resolve to protect players. The spotlight will be firmly on them to answer for why this was allowed to happen, and with Cam Newton being one of the league’s most renowned players, it will send a message... positive or negative... to all of his colleagues. There is one thing I know for certain. Firm action by the league is a must. Inaction is not an option.

If Cam Newton walks away from the NFL before his time because he keeps taking these hits, it isn’t good for anyone. The league, the fans, the players, the game of football... all will suffer when denied a full career by a potential future hall of famer, and the child that loves playing the game that lives inside Cam Newton will be extinguished for good.

You’re on notice NFL. I see you. I may not be a big shot writing articles for huge publications with millions of readers... but I’m going to reach the ones that I can.


Or watch the game fade as players leave earlier and earlier... realizing it isn’t worth their life.