NFL Responds to Cam Newton’s Criticism of Refs
The Panthers quarterback says he doesn’t feel safe. An NFL executive passes along a statistic that shoots down that claim. Plus reader mail
The MMQB's Jenny Vrentas takes questions on the Jamie Collin's trade, the NFL's overtime rule, and Bucs kicker Roberto Aguayo.
NEW YORK — The NFL doesn’t want to get into a war with its reigning MVP, popular Panthers quarterback Cam Newton. But on the same day Newton followed through with a vow to speak to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell about what he contends is a lack of protection for him from game officials, the current and former NFL officiating czars made it clear they don’t think he has a case.
Newton’s complaint after Carolina’s win over the Cardinals: “At times I don’t even feel safe … I just can't keep accepting, ‘Oh we missed that one’ or ‘I apologize for doing that’ or ‘I didn't see it.’ That’s horse crap … When you constantly see the hits, constantly see flags being picked up, and you constantly see flags getting thrown, and to see other quarterbacks getting hit, lesser hits, lesser physical hits, then it’s taking the fun for me out.”
Mike Pereira, former league vice president of officiating, was blunt in his response. “I don’t like whiners,” said Pereira, who does not always come down on the side of the NFL. “I don’t think [Newton’s criticism] is deserved.”
And in his office in midtown Manhattan on Tuesday, the league’s current vice president of officiating, Dean Blandino, was careful not to criticize Newton directly when we spoke for “The MMQB Podcast With Peter King,” which begins airing Wednesday. But Blandino was firm when he said: “He is not being officiated any differently than any other quarterback. The rules are the same for all quarterbacks. There are protections inside the pocket, there are protections outside the pocket and the quarterbacks, I think they all understand those rules.”
Blandino said since 2013, Newton’s third year in the league, defensive players have been flagged nine times for roughing the passer or unnecessary roughness on Newton. That, Blandino said, placed Newton in the top 10 among quarterbacks over the past three-and-a-half years in late or cheap hits on the quarterback.
“We’ve missed some calls on Cam,” Blandino said. “We missed a call on Sunday.”
That one was obvious. Arizona defensive lineman Rodney Gunter did get flagged for a late hit on Newton, but ref Walt Coleman missed an obvious low blow on Newton by Cardinal defensive end Calais Campbell. It’s illegal for a defender to make forcible contact with a quarterback at the knee or below. Campbell did. Coleman watched.
“From Walt’s perspective,” Blandino said, “he thought that the defender landed on the ground first and swiped with his arm. He didn’t see the forcible contact with the shoulder [on Newton’s lower leg] and if he doesn’t see that, then he is not going to throw a flag. A defender is prohibited from forcibly contacting the passer at the knee area or below so when he is in that passing posture he is protected. A defender can use his arms and hands to grab and wrap but he can’t drive his shoulder or any other body part, chest, forearm into the lower portion of the leg of the quarterback in that passing posture.”
There’s nothing wrong with Newton calling attention if he feels that officials aren’t treating him fairly. If nothing else, it shines a light on future referees when they do Carolina games. Officials and the league can insist they won’t treat Newton differently, but we’ll see. There will be such a microscope on Newton, in terms of replay and additional camera views, that the officials will likely give him any close calls in the next few weeks.
Next game up: at Los Angeles on Sunday. Very interesting. The Rams’ defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams, is known for coaching an intimidating, overly physical defense. The Rams are probably the most physical defense in football. And Williams was the coordinator banned for his role in the Saints’ bounty culture. So that’s going to be very interesting to watch.
It’s not likely Newton will be satisfied with the league’s reaction and justification of its calls. Coleman missed the low blow Sunday, and Newton felt he was manhandled in a 21-20 Week 1 loss at Denver. Stay tuned.
Now for your email...
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ON NEW ENGLAND’S DOMINANCE
Do you feel that the dominance by the Patriots and Belichick has negatively impacted the ability of other AFC East teams to attract and retain top talent? Your statistics on the number of head coaches since Belichick’s tenure began seems to indicate that might be the case. Realistically, does anyone want to spend a significant chunk of their career losing to New England? Do you think the Patriots’ dominance has hurt the AFC?
It might have hurt the AFC and AFC East. But Nick Saban didn’t shy away from coaching in the division after the Patriots (and his good friend Bill Belichick) had three Super Bowl wins. It didn’t stop Rex Ryan, a highly regarded coordinator seven years ago, from taking the Jets’ job and then the Buffalo one. Sometimes, a team dominates, and some other team has to knock that team off its perch. It so happens that Belichick and Tom Brady have been the best coach/QB combo platter since Paul Brown/Otto Graham. What are you going to do? You’ve got to compete and try to knock them off.
ANOTHER REASON WHY RATINGS ARE DOWN
Because the league is forcing players more and more to act like robots. Why can’t players and teams celebrate scoring? Remember the Ickey Shuffle and the Dirty Bird? The number one sport in the world is soccer. Watch how they celebrate after a goal is scored. These players are human. Let them express themselves and have fun. Watching a score and the official take the ball is boring. Fans can’t identify with this.
Preach, Anthony. It’s one of my big problems with the Competition Committee, and with the officials. Can you please exercise some common sense on celebrations?
A SMART NOTE FROM MY OLD TOWN
I agree with all of the comments submitted regarding viewership declining. However, one more element should be addressed regarding the ridiculous numbers of commercials. My wife said it over the weekend: THEY ARE ALMOST ALWAYS THE SAME COMMERCIALS, MOSTLY CHEVY!!! They simply cannot expect us to sit like idiots and take it. Commercials are a fact of television, I understand, the price we pay for watching. But no matter the show or the medium, only the NFL (and MLB a bit too) is so audacious as to think we can watch the same thing over and over and over. If they did that in the Super Bowl, you’d lose half the nation before halftime. I am actually ending my NFL Ticket after this season (if only because I can’t cancel it in-season). Thanks to The MMQB for publishing on Monday so many good observations, and reinforcing my own unhappiness with the NFL’s product, after 50 years of looking forward to it every Sunday. Good riddance to the Goose with the Golden Egg.
—Dan K., Montclair, N.J.
You are not alone, Dan. Thanks for checking in.
HOWARD COSELL LIVES
Here’s a prescription to ‘save’ the NFL:
1. Eliminate the Thursday night game.
2. Eliminate half the preseason games.
3. Eliminate the Pro Bowl.
4. Eliminate the TV commercial after the kickoff.
5. Teams must have an 8-8 record or higher in the previous season in order to be eligible for MNF.
6. Limit punts to three per team per game.
7. Hire full-time officials.
8. Revive the corpse of Howard Cosell.
1. Fine with me.
2. Eliminate all of them.
3. The Pro Bowl is a waste of time. Agreed.
4. You’d have to find somewhere else to put those lost commercials; the NFL’s not giving back ad inventory.
5. I wouldn’t want to make an absolute statement like that. What happens if a crummy team drafts a savior quarterback? Or if a bad team stole a prospect in free agency? I’d want to see a prime-time game from some of those kinds of teams the next year.
6. Seems gimmicky to me.
7. Have never been convinced that full-time officials would improve the game very much if at all. I am not opposed but I just don’t think it will help much. Plus, some good officials would likely be lost to their other jobs.
8. Haven’t heard that idea. A living Howard would be fun. Can't see a dead Howard helping very much.
A MCCONAUGHEY FAN
I LIKE the McConaughey Lincoln commercials. (1) There are a lot of different versions. (2) They add a new one to the rotation regularly. (3) They don't SHOUT AT YOU. It's an oasis of quiet in a series of loud, insulting commercials.
—John N., Belleview, Fla.
When I was young, we had a small home, and when I played records on my turntable, I played a lot of Elton John. A lot. Once (maybe 51 times, actually), my father asked me if I like any other music than that crap. Not sure I did. Anyway, that story occurred to me when when I read your email.
WHAT ABOUT WITTEN?
You write about Fitzgerald achieving a new milestone, Gronkowski smashing through another level with a touchdown, but not a mention on Jason Witten making his 204th career start, breaking the Dallas Cowboys franchise record he shared with Ed Jones? It was also Witten’s 154th consecutive start, tying a team record with Lee Roy Jordan. FOR SHAME! Witten does everything right. No off-field troubles. No TMZ-type of mentions. A surefire HOF but I guess these achievements are not worthy of a MMQB mention. Somewhere Dr Z is clucking his tongue at you.
Thanks for keeping me honest, Matt.
YOUR TAKE ON TIES
I must respectfully disagree with your idea about playing games until someone wins, Mr. King. At the end of the Cardinals-Seahawks tie, players were actually carried off the field due to exhaustion. Many were given IV fluids due to dehydration. You would have insisted they keep playing at great risk of injury or bodily harm. For a league that pretends to care about player health and safety this would be the antithesis of caring. A tie is not a cataclysmic event calling for a drastic response. It’s just a tie. There used to be ties in football games all the time back in the day and the league didn’t collapse. The players might, though, if forced to play more than the 75 minutes required under the current system. Play until you drop could not really be what you meant, right?
—Craig M., Santa Fe, N.M.
I was at the Cards-Seahawks game. I was on the field as the game ended, and talked to five players out there. I saw no one “carried off.” There have been two ties in the past 33 game weeks. In those two games, each team played five quarters. How much more would they have to play to come to an outcome? Two series? Four? You’re right—there’s nothing wrong with a tie. I just think making the NFL tie-free would add two or four series, on average, per year. Not really very much to sacrifice.
THAT OBJECT IN BUFFALO
Do we potentially have a new trend being set for Buffalo? I can envision a Florida Panthers-like plastic rat scenario happening every time the Bills score. As a Pats fan, I want this to happen. Talk about No Fun League, that’ll shake up Goodell a bit.
It’s hard to fathom fans sneaking in those recreational devices. I just hope if it becomes an epidemic, the league doesn’t go soft on discipline.
ANOTHER ADIEU HAIKU
I can overlook the allegations that you are an NFL puppet mouthpiece. I can overlook your weekly affront to Japanese haiku (seriously, a journalist should be able to do better with an extra 60 seconds and some choice synonyms). I can overlook the preoccupations with Coffeenerdness and Allagash White. I can overlook the regular political commentary regarding gun violence, domestic abuse, and social issues. I can overlook the 5K runs, the travel notes, and the baseball takes. I can even overlook your love affair with all things Patriot. You’ve got me doubting my allegiance to the MMQB website with my own haiku:
Is he serious?
Can I respect Peter King?
He eats candy corn!
—Mark K, Rochester N.Y.
And it is delicious.
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