By Nick Shook
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The NFL and NFL Players Association are addressing the circumstances surrounding decisions made by medical personnel during Thursday’s season opener between the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos.
The NFL has initiated a review of the medical team’s response to a late-game hit on Cam Newton by Broncos safety Darian Stewart that sent the reigning NFL MVP hard to the ground, per a statement from NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy:
“The NFL is committed to the proper application of the concussion protocol,” the league spokesman said in a statement. “In order to ensure that it is being uniformly applied across all 32 NFL teams, we have decided to initiate a review of the medical team’s response to the Cam Newton tackle, under the procedure set forth by the collective bargaining agreement. Under that procedure, representatives from the league and the players association will review the relevant documents and video and interview the involved parties to ensure that the protocol was applied properly. It is important to note that initiation of this process does not mean that we have seen any evidence that the protocol was applied improperly, but simply reflects our obligation to ensure the health and safety of our players.”
Earlier Sunday, the NFLPA announced it was “initiating a compliance investigation into the Cam Newton incident” from Thursday’s game.
Former NFL head coach and current NFL Network analyst Steve Mariucci is a member of the NFL’s Player Safety Advisory Panel, and said the group will discuss how seriously helmet-to-helmet hits are taken by officials.
“The hit that was helmet-to-helmet, the offsetting penalties, that one is what we’re going to discuss next week with this panel because it seems to me a helmet-to-helmet should override any other penalty,” Mariucci said on NFL GameDay Morning. … “Because that’s what we’re trying to eliminate from our game.”
Mariucci elaborated off-camera when speaking with the NFL news desk, explaining that the panel doesn’t just look at hits to the head, but that it is of paramount concern.
“We’re going to look at how officials can impact and not so much police, but we need to cut the helmet-to-helmet occurrences down,” Mariucci said. “We’ve done that by rule, we’ve done that by changing the way we play, the way we practice, the emphasis that teams have in tackling, all the way to youth football certifying coaches, clinics for parents and little kids, Pop Warner coaches, everything.
“We started off the first game and there were too many helmet-to-helmet hits and it happened to be on the MVP of the league, on the biggest stage to date. That can’t happen,” Mariucci continued. “We’ve got to continually emphasize and penalize and fine — the last one, whether it was offsetting or not, would have been targeting in college, the kid would have been out for the next game. We need to consider things like that.”
The panel meets once a month, but has yet to meet this season.