Panthers quarterback Cam Newton took a hit to the head late in Sunday’s loss to the Saints, stumbled on the field, went down on one knee, and then was evaluated for a concussion on the sideline. That was a violation of the concussion policy the league had distributed just nine days earlier, which said any player who stumbles on the field had to get a concussion check in the locker room, not on the sideline.
So why wasn’t Newton taken to the locker room? The Panthers will apparently claim it’s because Newton suffered a knee injury, and that caused his stumbling. Adam Schefter of ESPN, citing an unnamed source, writes that “the bothersome knee injury was a contributing factor as to why Newton staggered to the ground and struggled to stay balanced once he took a knee after a hard hit to the head.”
But that doesn’t matter, according to the joint statement the NFL and NFL Players Association distributed just nine days before that Panthers-Saints game. In the statement, the NFL made clear that league policy would “Require a locker room concussion evaluation for all players demonstrating gross or sustained vertical instability (e.g., stumbling or falling to the ground when trying to stand).” There was nothing in the statement that made any exception for players who also had a knee injury.
Schefter quotes the league’s concussion protocol as including a clause that a player must be taken to the locker room only “if it is not diagnosed as an orthopedic injury.” But there was nothing about an “orthopedic injury” exception in the NFL’s statement about its revised concussion policy on December 29. And anyway, the Panthers’ own announcement said, “Cam Newton has been evaluated for a concussion and cleared.” If Newton was being evaluated for an orthopedic injury, why did the Panthers say he had been evaluated for a concussion?
Cam Newton has been evaluated for a concussion and cleared.—
Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) January 08, 2018
If the NFL wants us to believe it takes concussions seriously, it can’t keep changing its story about concussion evaluations. The NFL announced that players who stumble on the field can only have a concussion evaluation in the locker room, not on the sideline. Nine days later, Newton stumbled on the field and was evaluated for a concussion on the sideline, not in the locker room. It that’s not a clear violation of the concussion protocol, what is?