Carolina Panthers MVP quarterback Cam Newton was forced to leave Sunday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta after he suffered what appeared to be an avoidable helmet-to-helmet hit from Atlanta linebacker Deion Jones, on a two-point conversion attempt.
Watch a video of the injury below. Newton attempts to run the ball into the end zone himself to complete the conversion at 11:42 of the fourth quarter, and he has a clear path to score. But instead he inexplicably slows down before he reaches the goal line, allowing Jones what amounts to a free shot at him.
The 27-year-old Newton, the top overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft, also took two brutal helmet-to-helmet hits in the Panthers’ Week One loss to the Denver Broncos. Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall was fined almost $25,000 for his hit on Newton, while safety Darian Stewart was hit with a fine topping $18,000.
But Jones was not even penalized for his crushing hit on Newton, a hit that may cause the reigning MVP to miss at least one game for the defending NFC champs, who with their 48-33 loss to the Falcons have now started 2016 at 1-3, after losing only one game in the entire 2015 regular season.
The play was reminiscent of a severe hit Newton took in game against the New Orleans Saints last December — also after slowing down as he reached the end zone. Newton was evaluated for a concussion after that hit, but he passed the concussion protocol tests.
Watch former NFL official Mike Pereira, now an officiating analyst for Fox Sports, explain why the hit on Newton by Jones was not ruled a foul, in the video below. Basically, Pereira says, Newton became a runner on the play, meaning he was not deemed a “defenseless player,” and in that case, only a hit delivered with the crown of the helmet — not that side — is considered illegal.
The Panthers medical staff is under review by both the NFL and the Players Association, according to the Charlotte Observer newspaper, for allowing Newton to stay in the game in Week One against the Broncos, despite staying down for more than 30 seconds after taking a helmet-to-helmet hit.