In the last few weeks, the conversation around safety has become a pressing matter for Carolina Panthers star quarterback Cam Newton.
The concern on Newton's behalf has become so great that he met league commissioner Rodger Goodell earlier this week to discuss it in greater detail to hopefully draw a larger attention to the amount of late hits that he has endured this season.
This all began with several non-calls during the season opener against the Denver Broncos when he was hit on the helmet multiple times. This sparked the NFL to investigate whether the concussion protocol was used correctly after he was allowed to continue to play after taking a late-game hit that saw his head hit the field.
It has continued to persist as the weeks wear on as Newton was subject to a couple controversial plays last week against the Arizona Cardinals when defensive tackle Calais Campbell gave him a low hit below the knee. He had stated following the game that he "doesn't feel safe on the field."
Panthers head coach Ron Rivera also chimed in on the matter voicing that he completely agreed with Newton's stance while also opining that his quarterback is getting the "Shaquille O'Neal treatment' from the referees because of size being that he is much larger than a typical player at the position that leads to assumption that he absorbs the contact better from a physical standpoint.
Heading into this week's matchup against the Panthers, the Los Angeles Rams will have the tall task of trying to limit the Panthers' offense led by Newton. Head coach Jeff Fisher appears to be well aware of the situation but added that he believes Case Keenum has also endured some illegal hits as well.
“Well, first off, what head coach is not going to support his quarterback, number one? Secondly, there are hits – illegal hits – that are missed in every game on a quarterback," Fisher said. "We’ve got, probably, a half dozen or so on (QB) Case (Keenum) – and I have my own theory on that. They’re doing the best they can to officiate the game. Cam’s a great player, he’s a physical player. I know he understands the difference between being hit in the pocket as a passer and pulling the ball down and running as a runner, because he does run the football quite a bit, I mean, he’s a big man."
Fisher also believes that Newton may have "overreacted" to the hit that he received from Campbell but understands his vantage point of it all. However, he holds strong faith that the league is doing the best they can to keep players safe on the field.
"Across the league, it happens all the time. The league’s priority, from a safety standpoint, starts at the quarterback position. I’ve done a lot of work, through the (competition) committee over the years, protecting the quarterback – there’s going to be things that just aren’t called,"Fisher said. "At the same time, there are hits on quarterbacks that are legal that are called fouls. The league’s doing the best they can to protect them.”
He also didn't voice any concern about any major changes from the league occurring ahead of Sunday's game.
“I’m not concerned about it, because there’s no rule changes, and our players understand the rules – as do their players understand the rules. So I’m not concerned about it at all," Fisher said. "I’m more concerned about him extending plays with his legs and making plays with his arm. He was an MVP for a lot of reasons last year.”
Defensive end William Hayes concurred with that premise as he believes the game plan against Newton and the Panthers' offense will remain the same.
“We’re not going to out there to play dirty,” Hayes said, according to LA Times. “We just play physical and fast. We’re not going to target him because he’s complaining about getting hit.”