Carolina Panthers

NFL looking into Panthers’ handling of QB Cam Newton’s concussion evaluation

(USA TODAY Sports)

The Carolina Panthers’ handling of Cam Newton’s fourth-quarter injury is being looked into by the NFL.

Newton exited Carolina’s wild-card loss to the New Orleans Saints after taking a hit to the head in the fourth quarter. Newton attempted to walk off the hit, but went down on the field near Carolina’s sideline and was attended to by team doctors. Newton was then evaluated for a concussion in the medical tent and quickly cleared to return.

Now NFL officials are questioning the Panthers’ medical staff as to why Newton was not taken to the locker room when he was being evaluated for a concussion. They will not comment further until those conversations are completed.

“We are in contact now with the Panthers’ medical staff and we will not comment further until those conversations are completed, the NFL said in a released statement.”

Cam’s return following a quick tent visit raised eyebrows, considering the NFL’s recent modifications to the concussion protocol after an incident in Houston involving Texans quarterback Tom Savage.

The new adjustments, implemented on Dec. 11, state that “a player who stumbles and/or falls to the ground when trying to stand, unrelated to an orthopedic injury, should be sent directly to the locker room to undergo the standard locker room exam.”

Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said after the game that Newton was taken to the medical tent because he had been poked in the eye.

“He actually got poked in the eye,” Rivera said of Cam after the loss. “They took him in there as a precautionary just to make sure, but when he was sitting on the ground, they were trying to wipe whatever when he got popped. So that’s what that was.”

However, the Panthers did announce that Newton was tested for a concussion in the blue sideline tent and cleared. He returned to the game for the Panthers’ next series and threw a 56-yard touchdown pass to tailback Christian McCaffrey on his third play back.

Newton seconded his coach’s explanation that it was only an eye poke that he was checked for.

“There were precautionary concussion protocol things that happened, but it wasn’t my head. It was my eye,” Newton told reporters. “My helmet had come down low enough over my eyelid, and it got pressed on a player’s stomach, I believe. I thought that maybe somebody had stuck a finger in my eye, but I’ve got my visor, so that couldn’t happen.”

Rivera said the team wanted Newton to sit on the field so backup Derek Anderson could prepare to enter the game.

“We wanted [Newton] to sit down near the sideline to give Derek a chance to warm up,” Rivera explained. “I mean, he was injured. Instead of trying to bravely walk off, we wanted him to take a knee to give our guy a couple of throws.”

Anderson entered the game for one play — an incomplete pass on third-and-17 from Carolina’s 10-yard line.

Since the start of the season, the NFL and the NFLPA have conducted at least two investigations into potential violations of their concussion protocol. The Seattle Seahawks were fined $100,000 for failing to test quarterback Russell Wilson after he was sent off the field in Week 10. The league found no violations but announced its revisions in response to the Savage incident after he presented obvious concussion symptoms on the field, but was allowed to re-enter the game.

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