The NFL’s new concussion-protocol enforcement agreement with the NFLPA was immediately tested on opening night, with the handling of Cam Newton Cam Newton drawing national attention in the first Thursday night game of the season. While the NFLPA is continuing to gather information, sources said the union is strongly considering launching a formal investigation into the matter. The NFLPA wants to know why Newton never received a cognitive exam on the sidelines despite suffering repeated blows to the head, and despite Newton appearing to clutch his head and have difficulty getting to his feet at times.
A source says the NFLPA has already conducted several interviews, but wants to talk to at least two more key figures involved in Thursday night’s game before moving forward with a final decision.
Under the new protocol, the NFLPA would have two weeks to inform the NFL that it wanted a situation investigated. If any wrongdoing is determined by the joint investigation, then clubs could now be subject to considerable discipline, such as steep fines and potential loss of draft picks.
This would be the first time the process is enacted. The NFL already released a statement on Friday indicating that during a stop in play Thursday, the medical staff, along with the independent specialist, reviewed video of Newton after suffering the final blow to his head, concluding there was no evidence in their estimation that he required additional testing or needed to be removed from the game.
The NFLPA was surprised by the league’s statement, a source said, since it was written without conducting any formal review with the union.
Under the protocol, the spotters in the press box — also not affiliated with the teams — can call down to stop the game so that a player may be removed to get examined. The league has gone to lengths to detail its attempts to make the game safer, but there was considerable public and media backlash to the beating Newton absorbed as well as pointed postgame remarks from some of his teammates and from the quarterback’s father. Given the high profile of the game and the prominence of the player involved, the NFLPA is also under outside and internal pressure to exam the matter as fully as possible via the new investigative/enforcement system.
Newton was examined multiple times after the game and was not placed in the concussion protocol following those checks, though in some cases symptoms can take days to manifest themselves fully. Safety remains one of the biggest challenges facing the league, with in-game officials being urged to err on the side of caution when possible. Newton absorbed at least four direct shots to the head, at least two of which were clearly illegal, according to the league’s internal review, though only one was penalized.
If, after a joint NFL/NFLPA investigation into the application of the concussion protocol the sides differ as to whether punishment is warranted, then a third-party arbitrator would make a final decision as to whether any punishment is handed out.
Source: CBS Sports / NFLPA strongly considering probe into handling of Cam Newton situation