Cam Newton’s 2016-17 NFL season didn’t get off to a great start on Thursday night. Newton passed for 194 yards and threw one touchdown and ran for 54 yards and recorded a rushing touchdown, but it wasn’t enough to lead the Panthers to their first win of the year. Carolina kicker Graham Gano missed a field goal from 50 yards out with less than 10 seconds left on the clock, and the Broncos held on to beat the Panthers 21-20 on the opening night of the NFL season. But the loss wasn’t the only thing that Newton and his teammates were upset about after the game.
During the contest, Newton took a series of shots to the head courtesy of Broncos defenders without accumulating a single penalty yard. Most notably, Newton took a helmet-to-helmet hit from Broncos safety Darian Stewart during the final drive of the game that was called a penalty, but Newton got called for intentional grounding on the play and the penalties that the two players were called for offset each other. Newton appeared to be shaken up after that particular play, though he was not removed from the game and checked for a concussion. You can watch some of the brutal head shots that Newton took during the game here:
During his post-game press conference, Newton admitted that he felt "sh*tty" and said that it’s "not fun getting hit in the head":
But Newton took the high road and refused to call the game's referees out for not calling penalties on some of the hits he took:
His teammates didn’t follow his lead. While Newton was seemingly willing to overlook the many helmet-to-helmet hits that he was subjected to, several of his fellow Panthers players told reporters that they weren’t happy with the refs for not throwing their penalty flags more often during the game.
"Early in the game, a guy took two, three steps and hit him in the head and they didn’t call a penalty," Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis said. "We’ve talked about it ad nauseous. It doesn’t matter. They ain’t going to change it."
Panthers tight end Greg Olsen also questioned the referees' non-calls. "I know he’s the biggest guy on the field, but he’s still the quarterback," Olsen said. "We’ll see what some of those [helmet-to-helmet] hits look like. Obviously, we got one of them, but we didn’t get many yards off of it."
Fans were upset about the hits Newton took, too, and specifically, many wondered how and why Newton wasn’t subjected to a concussion test after the hit he took from Stewart towards the end of the game. Granted, the Panthers were in the middle of a potentially game-winning drive at the time of the hit, but fans took to Twitter to question the logic behind not stopping the game to have Newton evaluated:
Newton wasn’t treated for a concussion after the game and wasn’t put into the concussion protocol, but there’s no doubt that he took some hard hits during the game. And the NFL is likely going to have to answer for why more penalties weren’t called in the coming days. Meanwhile, Newton and the Panthers will have more than a week to recover from their game against the Broncos. They will play the 49ers at home a week from Sunday.