Everyone from Cam Newton’s father to the guys at your gym has an opinion about the hits the Carolina Panthers’ quarterback took during last week’s season-opening loss at Denver.
Except Cam Newton.
Amid the public outrage over the helmet-to-helmet hits Newton absorbed and an NFL investigation involving the Panthers’ response to the last of those collisions, Newton says he’s ready to move on.
“My job is to win football games. My job is not to lobby for my health,” Newton said Wednesday. “I feel as if there’s times I’ve been taking hits, they haven’t been called. But that’s understandable. And sometimes I’ve been hit and they’ve been called. So I can’t just point the finger and say, ‘I haven’t gotten calls,’ because I have.”
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Newton was full-go at practice Wednesday, six days after absorbing at least four head shots in the second half of a 21-20 loss to Denver.
Newton said he felt “unbelievable” physically, adding that no NFL player ever feels 100 percent after a game.
Sometimes I’ve been hit and they’ve been called. So I can’t just point the finger and say, ‘I haven’t gotten calls,’ because I have.
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton on whether NFL officials protect him
Newton also defended the Panthers’ medical staff, saying he was asked by trainers and game officials at various points during the game if he was OK. The league and union are investigating whether the medical team erred by leaving Newton in and not evaluating him for a concussion until afterward.
“There’s no question I took a couple hits to the head, but I don’t think I showed any signs of being concussed,” Newton said. “There was no wooziness. I’ve seen hits in the past where guys kind of stumble. And I’ve seen hits in the past where it affects their play afterward. It wasn’t no kind of tumble to the next play. ...
“I understand I was kind of shocked, hurt. But that comes with football.”
Panthers backup quarterback Derek Anderson started warming up after one of the collisions on Newton and was certain he’d be in the game following Stewart’s hit, which left Newton on the ground for 30 seconds left before he was helped up by trainer Ryan Vermillion.
“The last one I thought he was coming out for sure because it just looked bad,” Anderson said. “Obviously, he’s one of the toughest guys that ever played. I’ve never seen anybody take that many blows and just keep bouncing up. And (to) have the positivity that he had during the course of the game and to keep guys going is pretty impressive”
But Newton didn’t bounce up nearly as quickly from Stewart’s hit, which came in the final minute with the Panthers driving for a potential, game-winning score.
“Usually, hits you pop back up (after),” Newton said. “That was a big hit.”
With the game stopped for more than two minutes while officials sorted out offsetting penalties – Stewart’s roughing the passer flag was negated by an intentional grounding call against Newton – Anderson said there was no reason for Newton to be in a hurry to get up.
Newton brushed off a question about whether he would have allowed himself to be taken out with the game on the line.
“Listen, I see where this is going,” Newton said. “And we’re dwelling on something that I don’t want to dwell on.”
Newton went on to say that he’s concentrating on San Francisco’s defense, which shut out the Rams 28-0 on Monday night. The 49ers visit Charlotte on Sunday.
But along with Newton’s toughness, both Anderson and Panthers coach Ron Rivera referenced the quarterback’s stubborn pride.
“With Cam, it’s always about his smile. That’s just the way he is. He doesn’t want to show he’s hurt or anything like that,” Rivera said. “He tries to get up at the same pace and tempo. He tries to move in and out of the huddle the same way. That’s just his mentality.”
“He’s a tough guy. He really is,” Rivera added. “He put it all out on the line Thursday night. He left it on the field. He didn’t save anything. I’m just glad he’s on our team.”
Whether planned or not, Newton’s decision to say little about the hits Wednesday seems smart. If he came out firing, his critics – and there are many – would likely label him a whiner or crybaby.
Better that Newton sit back and let teammates and everyone else complain about the NFL’s double-talk on player safety. He’ll find out soon enough whether all the noise produces change in how he’s officiated.
“My focus right now is trying to win football games – through all the hits, everything,” he said. “My job as a quarterback is to collect wins.”