Ron Rivera says Cam Newton will play against the 49ers

ByDavid Newton ESPN logo
Monday, September 12, 2016

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has shown no symptoms of a concussion in the aftermath of Thursday's opener against Denver that would prevent him from playing in Sunday's home opener against San Francisco.

"The only thing I'll say is he's sore in terms of playing-the-game sore," coach Ron Rivera said Monday of Newton, who took four helmet-to-helmet hits in the 21-20 loss to the defending Super Bowl champions. "Not anything else sore.

"He's tough, he's resilient. He's moving around pretty good today."

But at least one of Newton's teammates remains upset that the officials called only one penalty against Denver for helmet-to-helmet hits. That came on Carolina's final drive and was negated by an intentional grounding penalty on the NFL MVP.

"He's treated like a running back -- and he's not," Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsensaid of Newton. "He's a quarterback that happens to be big. And fast. And strong."

Olsen and Rivera agreed that Newton doesn't get the benefit of such calls because at 6-foot-5 and 260 pounds, he's bigger than most quarterbacks and carries the ball a lot in the read-option offense.

Newton rushed 11 times against Denver.

"That's what drives me nuts," Olsen said. "They say, 'Oh, but he runs the ball so much.' Every single one of those times he was playing quarterback. I don't give a s--- if he ran the ball 10 plays in a row as a running back. When he is a passer, he is a passer. Period.

"I'm not saying Cam should get different rules than anybody else. Just call the rules for every single person that is a quarterback. Period."

Rivera agreed.

"The hard part is the hits that a lot of people are concerned [about] was when he was a passer," he said. "It came about because he was a passer, and as long as he's behind the line of scrimmage he's afforded quarterback protection."

Olsen and Rivera each noted plays in Sunday's games in which the defense was flagged for a helmet-to-helmet hit that was far less violent than some of those Newton took.

Olsen mentioned specifically a roughing-the-passer penalty called against the Bengals in which the defender's hand brushed the helmet of Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.

"It's almost insulting," Olsen said. "It's insulting."

Rivera wondered whether the officiating became stricter because of what happened to Newton.

"There were a couple that I watched that I thought, 'Hmmm. OK,'" Rivera said.

Rivera sent several of the helmet-to-helmet hits to Newton that weren't penalized to the league office. He hasn't gotten a response yet.

Rivera doesn't know when the NFL or NFL Players Association will conclude its investigation into whether the team and league responded appropriately under the concussion protocol by not taking Newton out of the game to evaluate him.

He hopes a ruling is made by Wednesday so "we can start focusing on San Francisco."

The Panthers could be subject to fines or even the loss of draft picks if it is determined they didn't respond appropriately.

Rivera defended his staff, reminding that Pro Bowl middle linebacker Luke Kuechly was taken from the game late in the first half of last year's opener and missed the next three games with a concussion.

"Our guys are very aware, and they understand the rules, the protocol," Rivera said. "It's just unfortunate some people don't understand what the protocol is."