The reigning league MVP and the NFL commissioner chopped it up Tuesday night about what Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton views as uneven officiating when he’s getting pummeled in the pocket.
Newton believes he made his point during his phone conversation Tuesday with Roger Goodell: He wants the same protections extended to other quarterbacks.
Newton called it a “great discussion,” and Panthers coach Ron Rivera called Goodell a “willing listener.”
Will their long-distance heart-to-heart bring any change?
“We’ll just see Sunday – and moving forward,” Newton said Wednesday. “I hope.”
Count me among those who do not believe there is a vast conspiracy of league suits and game officials sitting around conference tables each week plotting against Newton.
But I do think there’s merit in the Shaquille O’Neal argument, first voiced by Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis after the Broncos took target practice on Newton’s head in the season opener at Denver.
Hard fouls didn’t look so hard when they were committed against O’Neal, a 7-foot-1 mountain of a man who played 19 NBA seasons. Funny, officials never missed the calls on O’Neal when teams were playing Hack-a-Shaq.
I’m not sure the 6-5, 260-pound Newton is the NFL’s Shaq. He’s built more like LeBron James.
While Newton hasn’t reached James’ level of greatness, he’s one of the NFL’s transcendent players. But for a player of his stature, Newton doesn’t seem to get the benefit of the doubt on calls that could go either way.
“It’s not about getting special treatment,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Wednesday. “It’s about being treated the same across the board.”
A private conversation
Newton refused to divulge the details of his talk with Goodell, calling it a private conversation.
But he appreciated getting a chance to vent his frustrations, which boiled over Sunday when he took a hit below his knee from Arizona defensive tackle Calais Campbell that was not penalized.
Newton said after the game there are times he doesn’t feel safe and he’s tired of refs saying they missed calls. He indicated he shared those same thoughts with Goodell.
“Anytime somebody hears you or you’re being heard – and obviously a person of his magnitude – I respect that,” Newton said. “I just wanted to be efficient of his time and make sure I got my point across. And I believe I did.”
By putting the officials on blast, Newton probably alienated a few refs – and at least one former official.
Mike Pereira, now FOX’s rules analyst, called Newton a whiner, and Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre said Newton would have been better served by not complaining.
“He’s a tough guy, he’s a smart guy, he’s a very talented guy,” Favre said on his SiriusXM show this week. “Just play and let everyone else do what they have to do.”
We’ll see on Sunday
In basketball they call this working the officials. And I have to think the next time someone goes low (or high) on Newton in the pocket, a flag’s going to come out.
Sunday’s game against Los Angeles will be an interesting case study.
Jeff Fisher-coached teams have the well-earned reputation of playing hard up to – and after – the whistle, sometimes leading to hockey fights.
When the Rams and Panthers last played in 2013, Carolina won 30-15 in a game brimming with penalties and testosterone.
There were seven personal fouls, including five by the Rams, and several fights, featuring one involving (surprise!) former Carolina wideout Steve Smith.
Throw in the fact that the Rams’ defensive coordinator is Gregg Williams, architect of the Saints’ Bountygate scheme that targeted Newton, among others, and you have the possibility of a few good dustups at the L.A. Coliseum.
Play hard, but smart
Rivera said his message to his team will be to play hard, but smart. But the former Bears linebacker – Fisher’s teammate in Chicago – said he hasn’t seen much extracurricular activity from the Rams.
“I watched the tape and I don’t think there’s anything extra out there,” Rivera said. “They play hard. They play physical. Their defensive front is a very physical front.”
Ed Dickson must have watched a different tape. The Panthers’ backup tight end said he noticed some “chippiness” and times when the Rams seemed to be trying to get under their opponent’s skin.
Whether Newton’s comments last weekend or his chat with Goodell did him any good remains to be seen. But they might have had the unintended consequence of rallying the troops at 800 South Mint Street, if Dickson’s remarks are any indication.
“We’ve got our quarterback’s back. So if he feels like he’s not protected, we’re going to make sure he gets protected,” Dickson said. “We reached out to the league making sure that they protect our quarterback. We have to do what we’ve got to do in-house to protect him as well.”