Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) is sacked in the fourth quarter by the New Orleans Saints defense during the Wild Card Playoff Game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans on January 7, 2018. File photo by AJ Sisco/UPI | License Photo
The NFL announced on Wednesday that the Carolina Panthers did not violate the league's concussion protocol with their handling of quarterback Cam Newton during an NFC wild-card game against the New Orleans Saints.
Despite criticism for the Panthers' decision to evaluate Newton on the sideline as opposed to the locker room, the league said on Wednesday that the team handled the situation appropriately.
"Mr. Newton was properly evaluated for a concussion in the sideline medical tent and did not sustain a concussion," the NFL said as part of a lengthy statement.
The NFL Players Association also released a statement on Wednesday.
"In this case, our health and safety team immediately initiated our standard investigation process minutes after the hit Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton took during the game against the New Orleans Saints," the NFLPA statement read. "Our process for all cases includes interviews with the coaching staff, club medical staff, players, neutral doctors staffing the game and review of video evidence and written game reports. This case presented the issue of strict interpretation of the protocol language and the totality of the circumstances known to the medical staff at the time.
"Our review of all of the facts do not support a claim of inappropriate medical care. Mr. Newton was immediately evaluated for a concussion and cleared by the team physician and unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant."
The play in question came during the fourth quarter of Carolina's 31-26 loss to New Orleans on Jan. 7.
Newton slowly got to his feet after a hard hit to the head from Saints defensive tackle David Onyemata. The 2015 NFL MVP made his way toward the sideline but then dropped to a knee before getting off the field.
Newton, 28, was taken to the sideline medical tent for evaluation for a concussion and cleared after missing only one play.
The NFL determined that Newton sustained an injury to his right eye as coach Ron Rivera claimed after the contest.
"He actually got poked in the eye," Rivera said at the time. "They took him in there as a precautionary (measure) just to make sure. But when he was sitting on the ground, they were trying to wipe whatever when he got popped. So that's what that was."
The league also said that Newton "did not display 'gross motor instability,' which would have necessitated a locker room evaluation." Also, the NFL said that the Panthers medical team "acted with an abundance of caution."
The NFL noted that Newton sustained a knee injury earlier in the game, which contributed to him falling to the ground while walking to the sideline.
As a result of the review, the Panthers won't face any discipline from the league. The Seattle Seahawks were fined $100,000 for improper use of the concussion protocol on quarterback Russell Wilson in November.