The play, it was blatant. Carolina’s Cam Newton got hit low on Sunday by Arizona defensive tackle Calais Campbell and there should have been a penalty called. It’s in the rule book. It’s the Brady Rule. Campbell got him below the knees – that should be called every time. Cam said it himself – “I could have torn my ACL” – and it only takes one hit for him to be out for the year or an extended period of time.
The referee, the official responsible for watching the quarterback, missed that one.
But Newton also missed the point in his postgame rant when he was saying some of the hits he has taken this season are “taking the fun out of the game for me.”
The way he worded it, he made it sound like it was happening consistently, and that’s the hard part for me. Yes, officials miss calls. It’s a difficult task for them because half the time he’s a quarterback and half the time he’s a 240-pound running back. I get when he’s in the pocket, he’s a passer, but it can be a difficult thing to decipher.
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He’s so involved in the run game it’s hard for the officials to say, ‘OK, here he’s a running back. Oh, wait, right here he’s a quarterback.’ It’s really tough and I know people will say, ‘He’s in the pocket.’ Well, when he’s running quarterback power he’s in the pocket for a few seconds also and if you’re a runner and you’re in the A-gap it’s no holds barred, Everything is legal. Everything they can do to a running back, they can do to you.
He has taken some pretty severe hits, some to the head. But he was out of the pocket a couple of times and you couldn’t tell if he was running or throwing or even if it was a run play that was called. He’s so involved in the run game it’s hard to discern: “OK, here he’s a running back. Oh, wait, right here he’s a quarterback.”
It’s really tough and I know people will say, “He’s in the pocket.” Well, when he’s running quarterback power, he’s in the pocket for a few seconds also, and if you’re a runner and you’re in the A-gap, it’s no holds barred; everything is legal. Everything they can do to a running back, they can do to a quarterback. When he’s stepping up to pass after he has gone through his reads and now he’s going to run, it looks the same at times. It looks very similar. For an official, it’s difficult. If you’re talking about a Sam Bradford or a Tom Brady, they’re not running those plays. If Brady gets hit in the head, it’s a penalty immediately. He’s not a running back. It’s a lot easier there.
Newton is unique because of that. There are a lot of quarterbacks you know aren’t going to run. You watch Bradford run and it’s, “OK, he’s clearly in scramble mode. He’s trying to get rid of the ball. He’s not tying to do anything with it.” But when Newton is moving around, it’s hard to tell. It’s a tough ask for the officials.
I think that’s where he’s getting frustrated – he couples all those plays together.
He got hit low and that should have been a flag, and I understand his frustration. But if he sits back and looks at it, he would see that he is getting the calls. Going back to 2013, he has gotten more calls than any quarterback in the league.
There will be some eyes on the quarterbacks now and that’s a good thing because, honestly, the quarterback makes the whole thing go.
If Newton is injured, if he’s out with an ACL, who is going to watch the Panthers? Unfortunately or fortunately (however you look at it), it’s a quarterback-driven league and you want those guys like Brady and Aaron Rodgers on the field and you want to see them play.
If you’re going to protect those guys, you have to call it every time and they do at times. You’ll see a quarterback get grazed in the face, and a lot of times that flag gets thrown and people freak out and defensive guys lose their minds and coaches lose their minds. But you almost have to officiate that way if you’re going to protect the quarterback.
It’s going to sound like I’m protecting quarterbacks and I am because they’re helpless out there. They’re not looking at the defenders. They’re looking down the field and trying to make a play and are not concerned about this all-out brawl between 10 guys that’s going on around them.
So I do get what Newton is talking about. He’s right – officials have missed a couple and the league has to look at that. But the way he made it sound is they’re missing all the calls, and that’s just not the case.
Question of the week
From Tommy Minor: It is well-publicized that one in six retired NFL players declare bankruptcy and 78 percent suffer significant financial stress shortly after they hang up their cleats. How can the NFL rectify these staggering figures and what advice would you give aspiring high school and college student-athletes regarding their future fiscal health?
The best thing that I had were my peers, like Trent (Dilfer). He was great. He sat down with me and said, “Hey, this is what you have to do. You have to set it up like this.” You still don’t listen at first, but you remember that conversation. You remember the things that you talked about and you try to set it set up a certain way where you don’t have to worry about that.
The NFL does a good job trying to vet the kind of guys you can get in contact with as far as business managers and financial advisers. They try to do as much as they can. But at the end of it, it’s guys with a ton of money and a lot of free time and if they don’t have good counsel around them, there’s not a lot you can do. I was fortunate. I have great parents, good counsel around me. Trent was one guy. There are others who were just great.
There are always veteran guys there and that’s what I tell every young guy I talk to from Jared Goff to Carson (Wentz) to Derek (Carr), find a guy who has been there for 10 years or more and just go talk to them. See if you can get your locker right next to him, because he’s doing something right whether it’s on the field, off the field. He has it figured out. So, go pick his brain, go find something in common with him and just go talk to the guy. You can talk to guys – they’ll give you good advice – and then you collect that information and make your own decision between you and your wife or you and your family and you do what’s best for you. There’s no magic to it. You just have to be smart, get smart guys around you, get wise counsel and you should be fine.
David Carr is a former Fresno State quarterback, NFL No. 1 draft pick and Super Bowl champion. Now he’s an analyst for the NFL Network and writing a weekly column in collaboration with The Bee’s Robert Kuwada. The column is sponsored by Valley Children’s Hospital.
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