After absorbing a low hit from tackle Calais Campbell in the Carolina Panthers‘ win Sunday over the Arizona Cardinals, Newton said he doesn’t feel safe at times and planned to file a grievance over late hits to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell because “enough is enough.”
Gilbert protects Ben Roethlisberger, who is 6-foot-5 like Newton and has been sacked 450 times in 12-plus seasons.
“Ben gets hit more than anybody in the league and he never complains. C’mon man. This is the game of football,” Gilbert said. “If you’re out there and you’re scared to take a shot, then don’t be out there, especially if you’re a running quarterback. (Defenses) are going to take shots at you. Just the way, his style of playing football, how he celebrates, I guess he gives the guys a chip, like let’s go hit the reigning NFL MVP.”
Gilbert, a six-year NFL veteran who played briefly with Newton at the University of Florida, stresses Newton is a “great player” and doesn’t believe players are trying to intentionally hurt him.
But defenders might be trying to affect Newton mentally with physical play as a response to what Newton does during and after successful runs, Gilbert said.
“When he’s running over people, he’s going to stand right up and he’s going to celebrate,” Gilbert said. “This is the game of football. I’m sure there are cornerbacks or linebackers, whoever he’s running over, the safeties, they aren’t complaining about getting run over or getting crowned, facemask to facemask with the quarterback from a guy his size. Of course, guys are going to take shots…I don’t think anybody is trying to purposefully hurt him, but you’re going to get those extra hits, especially against such a great player.”
Newton’s playing style has come into focus after the quarterback missed the Week 5 matchup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers because of a concussion. Newton also took several physical hits from the Denver Broncos in Week 1 that did not elicit penalties.
For his career, Newton has 637 rushes for 3,398 yards and 46 scores.
“If you don’t like it, then tell the coach or the coordinator to change the whole gameplan,” Gilbert said. “Try to do something to protect you, because back a couple of years ago when Ben was getting hit a lot, we had to change our offense a little bit, put in a little extra protection to help him stay upright because he is the franchise player.”
Since 2014, Roethlisberger has averaged less than two sacks per game as part of a quick-strike passing game.
To be sure, many of the worst hits on Newton are occurring in the pocket.
From Newton to Roethlisberger to Tom Brady, great quarterbacks will always be a target for eager defensive players, Gilbert said.
“I’m sure all the other 53 guys on that team are hurting just as bad and pretty much take a lot of shots, too,” Gilbert said. “Look at the running backs, look at the receivers going across the middle, the linemen, you get rolled up on all the time. It’s just a football game, bro. You’ve got to embrace it, you’ve got to accept the challenge that’s ahead of you, you have to go out there and play ball.”