NEW YORK (TNS) — Everyone has their reasons for why they believe the NFL has become less watchable than ever this season, ranging from players kneeling for the national anthem to the overuse of replay reviews bogging down far too much of the game action.
Of course, the league's concussion protocol also remains a complete farce, as underscored yet again by the sham that the supposedly updated and toughened rules continued to be during the first weekend of the playoffs.
According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, the NFL and the NFLPA are jointly investigating the Panthers' handling of Cam Newton in the fourth quarter of Carolina's 31-26 wildcard loss on Sunday in New Orleans. As they should be, regardless of the silly and insulting explanations both the star quarterback and his head coach, Ron Rivera, offered afterward for allowing him back into the game on the next offensive series.
Poked in the eye? Come on, now.
How about believing what everyone was watching with their own eyes?
"This 'Cam Newton's visor poked him in the eye' is the greatest storyline in the history of sports," Chris Nowinksi, the co-founder of the Boston University CTE Center, said on Twitter. "And I'm saying that as a former WWE wrestler. Watch the video, you don't collapse after that hit because you need ice on your face. It's a #concussion."
Barely one week ago, the NFL had announced it would "require a locker room concussion evaluation for all players demonstrating gross or sustained vertical instability," which the league further defined as "stumbling or falling to the ground when trying to stand."
Did that not describe Newton as he dropped to his knees and gestured towards his head while jogging to the sideline after he'd been leveled to the turf by Saints defensive lineman David Onyemata with about nine minutes remaining in the fourth quarter?
With backup QB Derek Anderson coming on for the next play, the Panthers first announced that Newton was being evaluated for a concussion —albeit in the sideline medical tent, not the locker room — and then that he'd been cleared upon his return to the field.
The former NFL MVP connected on a mid-range pass that rookie Christian McCaffrey broke for a touchdown, but the Panthers' final series and their chance for a comeback victory ended on a turnover on downs.
"I know it was a precautionary concussion protocol thing that happened, but it wasn't my head, it was my eye," Newton insisted after the game.
Newton, who wears a visor, further indicated that his helmet "came down low enough over my eyelid and it got pressed into the player's stomach," or he "thought maybe somebody stuck his finger in my eye."
Regardless, as soon as he wobbled to his knees, Newton should have been taken to the locker room, at least according to the revised protocol that was hurried into place in December after the league came under fire when Houston similarly had botched the handling of clearly concussed quarterback Tom Savage.
Kansas City's Pro Bowl tight end Travis Kelce and Buffalo quarterback Tyrod Taylor both left their team's respective losses over the weekend with concussions and did not return. Their absences impacted both outcomes, which you'd hope won't serve as further deterrent for coaches and players doing the right thing when it comes to head trauma.
Earlier this season, the NFL also had fined the Seattle Seahawks $100,000 for not properly following the protocol after quarterback Russell Wilson was crushed during a Week 10 win over Arizona.
The penalty for the Panthers should be even steeper, or else the league's talk about actually caring about player safety and long-term health still is nothing but more hollow lip service.