Player safety has been an issue the NFL has struggled to address for years now. Concerns about CTE are on the rise, and players think that there’s a lack of calls for dangerous hits, especially against quarterbacks.
At the front of the charge this season has been Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers. Newton has been taking some huge late hits all season, and both he and his coaches are sick of it. Ron Rivera has blasted the league several times over a lack of calls, and Cam Newton has done the same. It got so bad that Newton actually had a sit down with league commissioner Roger Goodell on Tuesday to discuss the issue.
But Dean Blandino, the league’s Vice President of Officiating, doesn’t buy Newton’s claims. He conceded that the hit Newton took to his knees against the Cardinals should have been called, but in general shifted the blame towards Cam Newton and his style of play. Via NFL Network:
“I think it’s the posture that’s going to dictate the attention and we want our referees to be as consistent as possible,” Blandino explained. “Quarterbacks have to understand that you get more protection in the pocket in the passing posture and when you leave the pocket and you’re in a running posture, you’re going to lose protection. I think that’s one of the issues. When you have a quarterback that does run more often, there are more designed runs or just scrambles, you do lose protection.”
His message is clear: if you don’t want to get hit, stay in the pocket. Refs do a better job of calling late hits that happen in the pocket than they do when a quarterback is scrambling and hard to see. Newton and his team likely won’t be happy with that answer, since their offensive unit relies heavily on Newton’s ability to run the ball on both planned runs and broken pass plays. Expect Ron Rivera to fire back at Blandino soon.