Sometimes the excuses are laughable.
“We didn’t throw the flag because he is a mobile quarterback.”
“He extends the play so much, we didn’t blow the whistle.”
Or everyone’s favorite, “We didn’t see it.”
Whatever excuse the officials, or the NFL, release after a quarterback is hit illegally, and a flag is not thrown, shows a serious problem in regards to safety at the position. Now, before I go any further, I should mention I am merely stating the rules of today’s NFL. Whether I believe quarterbacks should be as protected as they are isn’t the discussion, but how some quarterbacks are treated differently most certainly is the argument.
After the Carolina Panthers defeated the Arizona Cardinals in Week 8 of NFL action, where Newton was hit several times illegally, by the letter of the law, without a flag being thrown, the Pro Bowl quarterback had some poignant words to say about his safety at the position. (Transcript courtesy of CBSSports)
"It's not fun. It's really taking the fun out of the game for me. Honestly, it really is. At times, I don't even feel safe. Enough is enough. I plan on talking to Commissioner Goodell about this. It's not fun. And I don't know what I have to do. I showed a lot of frustration today and I apologized to the referee who I was talking to, but I don't think there's a person who can go through what I go through and still keep their head. Hits to the head, that's one thing, but when you're not protected in the pocket, that's another thing.
"The story of my life ever since I came in is just, 'Oh well, we messed that one up. Sorry.' That's bull crap. That's bull crap. As players in this league, if we do something stupid, we get fined. If we do something derogatory to somebody else, we get fined. 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. That's horse crap.
"Coming from a person who has been fined before, coming from a person that everybody is expecting a lot from -- and I'm still growing -- yet when you constantly see the hits, when you constantly see flags being picked up, when you're constantly seeing flags not being thrown, and to see other quarterbacks getting it on lesser hits ... it's taking the fun out for me. I'm just being honest with you."
The key word throughout Newton’s post-game comments is safety. Such a buzz word around the league today, and rightfully so. If you missed the game, watch the highlights and you see Newton take several high hits, as well as one nasty hit to the knee which made it look as if he was lucky to escape unscathed.
“I don’t even feel safe.”
Such a strong sentiment in regarding a football player stepping on the field at such a high level, but if there is another quarterback who can sympathize with Newton, it would be Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Both big, strong-armed quarterbacks who are mobile in their own way, they have seen numerous hits go unnoticed, or ignored, in their time in the NFL.
Who can forget Haloti Ngata’s hand breaking Roethlisberger’s nose?
Want a more recent example? How about in 2015 while playing the then St. Louis Rams defender Mark Barron hit Roethlisberger below the knee, which should be a rougher the passing penalty, but wasn’t flagged. Roethlisberger would miss 4 games due to the hit and is still dealing with issues in that knee from the incident. No, a flag wouldn’t have kept Roethlisberger on the field, but it certainly would have certainly helped the officials show the league they are protecting all quarterbacks, and not just some.
I, and other Steelers fans, could go on and on about hits to Roethlisberger in his time in the league, but go back to Newton’s comments. He hits the nail on the head when he says “...and to see other quarterbacks getting it [flags thrown] on lesser hits...”
This couldn’t be more true, and a bothersome fact for fans of teams like the Panthers and Steelers who rely on their quarterbacks to win football games. Most can remember the game between the Indianapolis Colts and the Philadelphia Eagles where Peyton Manning had the back of his helmet brushed, literally, by a passing defender, and it drew a 15-yard personal foul roughing the passer penalty.
The bottom line here is this, if the NFL wants to hang it’s proverbial hat on “player safety”, especially at the quarterback position, then why are they not protecting all quarterbacks? Why are hits on Ben Roethlisberger and Cam Newton not being flagged, while those same hits on Drew Brees and Tom Brady are giving the team automatic first downs and a big chunk of yardage?
Sadly, no one has the answer. Newton plans on talking with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell about the issue, which I simply say good luck with that. Ask Roethlisberger, who has been in the league much longer than Newton, and he’d likely say although it would be nice, nothing will change.