<
>

Source: Cam Newton talks to Roger Goodell about hits in the pocket

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton spoke with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell by phone on Tuesday in regard to no-calls on late hits he's taking in the pocket, a league source told ESPN.com.

The reigning NFL MVP said after Sunday's 30-20 win against the Arizona Cardinals that he planned to talk to Goodell about an issue that has made him feel unsafe in the pocket.

Carolina coach Ron Rivera spoke to Goodell on Monday, a league source told ESPN's Ed Werder. Rivera said at his Monday news conference that he fully supports Newton's complaints about not being fairly treated as a pocket passer.

He added that he has had ongoing discussions with the league about the situation.

"It's more about making sure he is getting the equal treatment and the protection he deserves as a quarterback in the pocket,'' Rivera said. "I have reached out to the league and the league has responded. And most recently I have reached out to the commissioner and he has responded and we'll continue to work through this and see how it goes.''

Newton reached what he called a "breaking point'' after officials did not call a roughing the passer penalty when Arizona defensive tackle Calais Campbell hit him below the knees on a pass play in the third quarter.

The league has since admitted that should have been a penalty, a source told Werder.

Defensive end William Hayes, whose Los Angeles Rams will face the Panthers on Sunday, said he understands where Newton is coming from but it won't change the way the Rams attack the quarterback.

"I think some of those hits he was talking about were kind of questionable, and I think if it was other quarterbacks they would've been called," Hayes said. "But that's not for me to say. But to say we're not going to try to go after him, that would be false."

Rivera says Newton is getting the same kind of treatment in the NFL that Shaquille O'Neal got in the NBA because at 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds Newton is bigger than most quarterbacks.

Newton hasn't had a roughing the passer penalty enforced on an opponent against him since the 2014 season, according to ESPN Stats & Information. He had one called in the opener against Denver, but that was negated by an intentional grounding penalty.

"He's a bigger guy for that position, as opposed to some of the smaller guys,'' Rivera said on Monday. "When they get hit, they roll around to the ground. When he gets hit, he absorbs them and it doesn't look as bad.

"I think sometimes that might be part of the reason that he doesn't get the calls he deserves or should get.''

NFL Hall of Famers Kevin Greene and Brett Favre said on Tuesday that Newton should stop complaining about late hits in the pocket. Favre said he was told all the way back to high school that it was the responsibility of the coach, not the player, to complain about officiating.

Greene told ESPN.com, after reviewing the Campbell hit, that it simply was a matter of a defensive player doing his job just as Newton was trying to do his job.

"That's just football," Greene said. "You never saw Joe Montana and Dan Marino and John Elway bitching about getting hit too much in the pocket.

"Cam shouldn't be doing that. He is a football player. Everybody knows he's running that zone-read stuff, and he's a runner, too. ... The game is physical. It's played by tough men. This is professional football and it's predicated on physical brutality. That's going to occur to you, Cam, whether you're inside the pocket or outside the pocket."

Newton has missed one game this season after receiving a concussion in the fourth quarter of a Week 4 loss at Atlanta. That occurred when the quarterback was attempting to score on a 2-point conversion run.

Newton's complaint is that defenders are hitting him late while he's a pocket passer and that officials are not protecting him as they are other quarterbacks.

He said that has taken the fun out of football for him.

"Enough is enough,'' Newton said on Sunday. "I plan on talking to Commissioner Goodell about this. It's not fun, and I don't know what I have to do.''

Information from ESPN Rams reporter Alden Gonzalez contributed to this report.