On Sunday, the NFL and NFLPA announced that they were conducting an investigation into whether or not the Carolina Panthers and their independent medical unit responded accordingly to a big hit that quarterback Cam Newton took late in the fourth quarter of the season opener against the Denver Broncos. While the investigation won’t have an effect on NFL lines, it will determine if the team officials followed the league’s concussion protocol properly.
The NFL’s decision to investigate the Panthers coaches and the medical team seems a little disingenuous considering that on Friday, a day after the game, the league said the concussion protocol had been followed.
In a statement issued by the league on Friday, the NFL said the Carolina coaches and the medical team were coordinating with each other on the sidelines after the hit. The league said the Panthers also had an unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant, and two independent athletic trainer spotters available.
During a stoppage in play when the officials were still trying to determine the penalties, neurotrauma consultant and team physician received video of the play and reviewed it. They said they did not see any indications of a concussion that would require further evaluation of Newton or a need to remove him from the field.
The fact that the NFL released the statement on Friday, then announced an investigation on Sunday, makes players and fans feel the league isn’t sincere about putting player safety first.
After the Newton debacle, a closer look into how the NFL operates makes it feel like Commissioner Roger Goodell always does the same thing regardless of the situation. His office always releases an initial statement about the matter, then they wait to hear what the public opinion is on said matter, then go back and review the situation again and try to handle it the way it should have been handled initially.
The way the game unfolded on Thursday, it has become clear that the NFL doesn’t really care about player safety. Quarterbacks are usually the most protected players on the field, but for some reason, Newton, who took at least four shots to the head in that game, was not protected by the referees, which was surprising since he is the reigning league MVP.
On the final hit, the Panthers’ quarterback was laid out flat on his face and anyone who saw the hit knew immediately that Newton needed to be checked out by the team’s medical staff. The situation was similar to that of Case Keenum, who was left in the game after clearly suffering a concussion in the fourth quarter.
The thing about the NFL is that it knows that players like Newton won’t voluntarily leave the field, especially in the final minutes of a close game. Since it’s also good for the ratings to have a team’s star player win the game in the final minutes, the league really doesn’t have an incentive to observe its own concussion protocol.
But if the league, which has been preaching player safety since Goodell was named the commissioner, doesn’t practice what it preaches, coaches and team medical staff are also less inclined to make the players safety a priority.