According to a report from NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport Monday morning, Atlanta Falcons safety Damontae Kazee “is not expected to be suspended” for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Panthers quarterback Cam Newton on Sunday afternoon.
Kazee will likely still be fined by the league.
Newton had slid down on a fourth-down carry in the second quarter when Kazee hit Newton’s facemask with the crown of his helmet.
Kazee was ejected, and Newton was evaluated for a concussion and cleared to return to the game. He did not miss a snap.
“I just appreciate the fact that, during the game, the referees went through the process,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Monday. “Obviously they contacted New York. The process worked. Whatever is decided from this point on, that goes to the league office. But I do appreciate the fact that the referees showed the willingness to do the things they needed to do, and they did them.”
Rivera, who is on the NFL’s Competition Committee, said the ejection “sends a message to players” that shots to the head won’t be tolerated.
“Players were told (before the season) that if something like this were to happen, you could be ejected,” he said. “I think the referees judged that it was an egregious hit, and made their decision. Obviously because it was in our favor, I agreed with it. ...(Helmet to helmet hits) have to be taken out of the game. It can’t be accepted.”
On Sunday night after the game, receiver Jarius Wright said the hit was “malicious” with the “intent to hurt” Newton.
Newton also said “there’s no fit for cheap shots” of that nature in the NFL.
Rivera did not comment Monday on whether he thought a suspension for Kazee is warranted.
“The hard part is, when you start asking people to judge intent, what the intent is, you could get it wrong,” he said.
“And that wouldn’t be fair either. So whatever they decide for the rest of the discipline, that’s up to the league. But we have to understand that this player, for all intents and purposes, could have been trying to slow down because again, Cam is a tremendous runner.
“He’s one of the best running quarterbacks ever. And this guy was coming at full speed. So the referees have to take in a lot of information, the league office has to take in a lot of information. And we’ll just go from there.”