CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Panthers coach Ron Rivera said he fully expects Cam Newton to play this Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers despite taking at least four helmet-to-helmet hits in a Week 1 loss to the Denver Broncos.
Rivera said that while Newton’s body is sore, his head is fine.
“He’s tough, he’s resilient and he’s moving around pretty good,” Rivera said Monday, reiterating that his QB has passed a number of concussion tests.
Newton made a brief appearance in the locker room, but did not answer questions. He’s expected to address the media on Wednesday.
The NFL and the Players Association are both looking into whether more should have been done when Newton took a shot to the head in the final minute of the game from Denver safety Darian Stewart.
The NFL released a statement last Friday saying there was communication between medical personnel on the Carolina sideline, including the unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant, and the two independent certified athletic trainer spotters in the booth. They ultimately concluded there were no indications of a concussion that would require Newton to be removed from the game.
Center Ryan Kalil said Monday that Newton did not seem dazed after taking the final blow to the head with 36 seconds left in the game.
“If he had any problems I didn’t see it,” Kalil said. “We were talking about one the protections and he reminded me about something we talked about earlier in the week (in practice), so I thought he was fine.”
Rivera said he has full confidence that the Panthers medical staff handled the situation properly and understands the concussion protocol. Rivera pointed out that the Panthers held out their top defensive player, middle linebacker Luke Kuechly, for three games last season because of a concussion.
“You look at how Luke was taken of last year and I have a tremendous amount of confidence in our doctors and our medical staff,” Rivera said.
Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen remains upset that Newton was hit in the head four times and the Panthers were awarded no penalty yardage. Only one roughing the passer penalty was called on the Broncos and that was nullified by an intentional grounding call on Newton. The league told The Associated Press last week that the officiating crew erred on one play and should have called a penalty.
“If there is a penalty, then throw a flag — that is very simple,” Olsen said.
Olsen disagrees with the notion that it’s harder to make calls on Newton because if a big, physical quarterback who runs the ball a lot.
“That is what drives me nuts,” Olsen said. “They say, ‘Oh, but he runs the ball so much.’ Well, every single one of those times he was hit he was playing quarterback. … (I don’t care) if he ran the ball 10 plays in a row as a running back, when he is a passer, he is a passer. Period. We’re not saying Cam should get different rules than anybody else. Call the rules the same for every single person who is the quarterback.”
Olsen points to a play on Sunday where he felt New York Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick got “brushed in the face” with a hand of a defensive player and drew a 15-yard penalty for roughing the passer — nothing compared to the shots that Newton took against Denver.
“It’s insulting,” Olsen said. Newton “is treated like a running back. And he’s not. He’s a quarterback, who happens to big and fast and strong.”
The NFL will review all of the Week 1 games and will hand out fines later in the week. Rivera has sent in “a number of plays” into the league for review.
“If what they did was illegal, then they should be treated accordingly,” Rivera said. “If they are not treated accordingly, then I will be disappointed.”
Rivera said the Panthers may have to alter how they use Newton moving forward.
“As far as what we do and how we do it, there are some things we have to look at,” Rivera said. “A lot of it is him. He’s a competitive guy and we do have to be aware of it too, because he wants to be the guy with the ball.”
Panthers offensive coordinator Mike Shula said he wants to limits Newton’s carries, too. Newton ran 11 times against Denver, but Shula would like that average to be about 7 or 8 per game.