All eyes were again on Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton during a press conference following a loss to the Denver Broncos.
There was no sulking this time. And there were no three-word answers. Just a lot of questions about the perception the Broncos had targeted Newton with a few high and/or late hits during Denver’s 21-20 victory Thursday at Mile High.
Newton conceded it’s “not fun getting hit in the head,” but said it wasn’t his job to question the officials.
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But Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis sounded off on what he sees as unequal treatment for Newton. Namely, Davis said he doesn’t think the 6-5, 260-pound Newton is extended the same protection as other quarterbacks because of his size.
Replays showed a couple of Broncos players hitting Newton high. Only one of them was penalized – a helmet-to-helmet hit by Denver safety Darian Stewart in the final minute that was negated by an intentional grounding penalty on Newton.
“That’s nothing new. They didn’t do anything different that hasn’t happened all along,” Davis said of the Broncos’ hits on Newton. “It’s just something that the league is going to have to police and they’re going to have to do a better job of and start treating him like the quarterback that he is.
“They look at his size. It’s kind of like the NBA used to allow guys to get away with that against Shaquille O’Neal because of his size. But when you dig deep down into it, they talk about player safety all the time and they need to protect that player as well.”
A possible concussion?
Newton stayed on his hands and knees for several seconds after Stewart’s hit. The game was stopped while officials sorted out the penalties, but Newton was not evaluated for a concussion until after the game.
There’s an independent neurologist on both sidelines and a booth spotter who is responsible for alerting the game officials if he sees a player who might have sustained a concussion.
A Panthers official said the team was never told to check out Newton after the Stewart play.
“The game was never stopped,” Panthers spokesman Steven Drummond said. “We never got a call to the sideline and the independent neurologist never alerted us to stop the game.”
Referee Gene Steratore referred questions to the league office because a player safety matter is involved.
Stewart said he was just trying to sack Newton and there was no malicious intent.
“I really didn’t think I hit him in the head. I thought I hit him with my shoulder actually,” Stewart said. “But it’s just one of those calls -- I’m just glad it was offsetting.”
Asked if he spoke to Newton after the game, Stewart said: “ There was nothing to talk about.”
‘He was fine’
Olsen said he talked to Newton right after the play to see if he was OK.
“I think he was OK. He definitely got hit in the head. But when I went down and talked to him, he was fine. He said, ‘Yeah, I’m good, I’m good. I’m just catching my breath,’” Olsen said. “There was a penalty so we had time to collect ourselves. He’s a tough dude. We all know that by now.”
Olsen was perplexed with the grounding call on Newton, saying: “I don’t know how that’s possible, to get an intentional grounding when you get personal fouled.”
But Newton took the high road.
“It’s not my job to question the officials,” Newton said. “I really like this officiating crew. It wasn’t something that I know they did intentionally. But it’s not fun getting hit in the head. We didn’t lose the game off that; I know that for a fact. We’ve just got to find ways to put more drives together.”
Davis saw more examples Thursday of a different standard for Newton, but agreed the hits and non-calls didn’t decide the game.
“You see it. It’s pretty obvious,” Davis said. “But at the end of the day that didn’t cost us this football game. Those plays didn’t cost us this game. We didn’t execute. They did. Now we’re moving on.”