A full primer on Newton’s comments can be found here, though the heart of his statement came when Newton said the game was not as fun anymore, and that he does not feel safe on the field. Newton was whacked below the knees by Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell on Sunday after a pass in the third quarter. Campbell appeared to start his dive at Newton before the ball was released, but regardless, a flag was not thrown.
“Cam is correct,” Rivera said Monday, via the Charlotte Observer. “I support him 100 percent in this.
“…I was disappointed it wasn’t called. … But I get the benefit of looking up at the screen and seeing it on replay. It confirmed what I thought. It’s difficult. You’d like to see those calls made. I’d love to see our quarterback get those calls.”
Rivera has awkwardly tiptoed through a minefield of questions surrounding Newton’s health, the league’s response and his own response to injuries on the field in the past 12 months. The often testy situation has manifested itself in confrontations with the local press. He walked out of a September news conference when a reporter asked about a hard hit sustained by Luke Kuechly against the Niners.
The one constant in all of this has been an unyielding support for Newton.
On Monday, Rivera again brought up the Shaquille O’Neal theory — that Newton is so large he can absorb hits effortlessly that would make smaller quarterbacks tumble to the ground, earning them the penalty flag.
This season, the Panthers have been the beneficiary of just one roughing the passer call, though, as NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport noted on Monday, Newton has gotten more roughing calls since 2013 (9) than Ben Roethlisberger, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. According to one penalty database, other mobile quarterbacks like Tyrod Taylor (1), Blaine Gabbert (1), Dak Prescott (2), Carson Wentz (2), Alex Smith (0), Russell Wilson (1), Marcus Mariota (2) and Andrew Luck (1) have received a similar number of calls. Make of those numbers what you will.
So goes this delicate back and forth with no end. Critics of Newton will suggest that his propensity to run the football and punch ahead for extra yards makes him a unique case among quarterbacks. Rivera, Newton and the rest of his teammates think he’s not being treated fairly (Newton went so far as to say that officials have told him they missed calls). Hopefully, Newton’s proposed meeting with the NFL will offer a solution that neither side seems to have.