Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton didn't speak out Thursday night after being on the receiving end of several controversial hits in a 21-20 loss to the Denver Broncos, but his father was "grossly disturbed" by the officiating crew, some Broncos defenders and the league office.
"It starts with the guys who control the behavior on the field," Cecil Newton told ESPN on Friday. "I think the culprit is the mere fact that they allowed the game to get out of control. They allowed players to push the envelope to the very edge. That's my ultimate concern. Whether [league officials] want to go after them or not, fine. But I'm thinking about Cam Newton being healthy today, tomorrow and 25 or 35 years from now."
Cam Newton, the reigning NFL MVP, absorbed at least four helmet-to-helmet hits, but only one drew a penalty. At least one hit showed a player launching into the 6-foot-5, 245-pound Newton, an action that is prohibited by league rules.
"I'm beginning to question the consistency of how games are being called -- and who they would call this particular play against versus this particular player," Newton's father said. "Was Cam treated differently from other quarterbacks? In this case, yes, he was -- clearly. Anybody who has followed the game for any length of time and has a working knowledge of how the game is to be played would agree with that statement.
"People throw all these jingles out there about he's mobile, he's bigger, he's more physical. There's a lot of this and that. At the end of the day, Cam deserves to be protected just like Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Ryan Tannehill, Kirk Cousins, Andy Dalton, and the list goes on and on. I know a good hit when I see a good hit. I was a defensive player, and I played the game at the highest level as well. But when you deliberately target and when you're constantly being hit after the ball is out, I question the intent of the defensive player, and I question the official who, basically, if he does not warn them, lets the flow of the game continue."
Panthers coach Ron Rivera echoed some of Cecil Newton's sentiments Friday afternoon, saying some of the hits on his star quarterback should have been called as penalties. Dean Blandino, the league's senior vice president of officiating, would not comment when reached Friday. The NFL Referees Association did not return a request for comment.
"I know he's the biggest guy on the field, but he's still the quarterback," Olsen said. "We'll see what some of those [helmet-to-helmet hits] look like. Obviously, we got one of them, but we didn't get many yards off of it."
In July, the league adopted stronger concussion protocols that included not only an independent neurologist on the sideline but also a second spotter in a suite above the field who could signal for play to be stopped so a player could be examined for a possible concussion. The NFL has had one spotter in a suite since 2013.
Newton, who stayed on the field after all four questionable hits, said he was not examined until after the game.
"If the league is going to be married to concussion protocol, first of all, start it with the officials because they mandate behavior on the field," Cecil Newton said. "If you're going to be married to the concussion protocol, be consistent with the calls that you're going to get, whether it's Cam vs. Aaron Rodgers or it's Aaron Rodgers vs. Ben Roethlisberger. I didn't see that at all last night. I didn't see any of that at all. And I am grossly disturbed about what I saw."
The NFL said in a statement Friday that medical personnel, including the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant, reviewed video of Darian Stewart's final-minute hit on Newton. The league "concluded there were no indications of a concussion that would require further evaluation and the removal of the player from the game." Rivera also emphasized Friday that the team followed the concussion protocol.
An NFL Players Association spokesman said Friday morning that the union was reviewing whether proper concussion protocol was followed.
"I don't speak in the voice of Cam Newton," Cecil Newton said. "I speak in the voice of Cecil Newton. I'm the father. I speak from what I saw. I'm disappointed in the officiating crew, as a fan of the NFL. ... These guys have to do a better, unbiased job. I don't want it to necessarily be because he's a black quarterback. But it causes you to wonder -- are you really biased or have some hidden reason [for treating him differently]? Because if everybody else can see the targeting -- I can't tell you how many calls I've gotten since last night, in the last 12 hours."
Asked again if he feels there is a bias against his son, Newton said he thinks there is "a bias, a hidden bias."
"I'm not just going to always say it's race. I'm not going to keep fanning the flames of race in every situation," he said. "But it causes me to wonder. Help me understand through transparency. Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL, help me understand how this can happen to the reigning MVP. Explain that to me. I'm not going to fan the flames of race in this particular category, but I really sit back and ask myself, 'Would this have happened to some of his other fellow colleagues?' Let the public answer the question for themselves.
"I'm just telling you what I see. I have a gross concern, not just for the safety of my son, but also the safety of other people as quarterbacks who, basically, are launched at and there are no calls. Don't tell me you're not old enough to get that call. Don't tell me this is a five-time Pro Bowler who did what he did and you're just going to kind of let it go this time around. Don't tell me that. Cam has a large following on both sides of the aisle. Cam interacts with people in the community throughout. It's not like he's been pandering to a certain side of the aisle. I'm just telling you that what I saw last night was reprehensible by NFL standards, and there needs to be some calling out of sorts, to the officiating crew as well as to those players who would be seen on record as taking cheap shots."