Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is 6-5 and 260 pounds. That’s big. Arizona Cardinals defensive tackle Calais Campbell is 6-8 and weighs 300 pounds. That’s bigger. When Campbell went low and folded Newton’s knee Sunday you winced and maybe grabbed your own knee. I did. The tackle easily could have ended Newton’s season.
Like Newton, you can work on your body hard all winter and summer. But no matter how big and how strong you are and what kind of condition you’re in, your knee remains fragile. (So does your brain.)
Carolina head coach Ron Rivera is correct. Hits on the quarterback have to be part of the league’s instant replay system. No player ought to be a piñata. And if the league wants to prevent its ratings from falling further, it can’t lose star quarterbacks.
Only a few years ago traditionalists, many of them players and former players, blew up when the NFL tried to reduce concussions by banning helmet-first hits. Now the only complaints you hear are the players who are fined or suspended. Similar protections ought to be offered for shots at the knees. According to the rules, of course, they already are.
▪ I’m 3-4 predicting the Carolina Panthers’ outcome this season. I think they go to Los Angeles Sunday and beat the Rams 24-19.
Panthers’ owner Jerry Richardson lobbied hard for the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers to be awarded the lucrative Los Angeles market. Both teams are owned by families that have long been part of the league and have long played in decrepit stadiums. But the NFL went with the money and allowed St. Louis to swoop in.
If there’s justice, Carolina wins this one.