I've taken some flak over the past few days for standing up and virtually shouting about the obvious gap in how the NFL's officiating crews treat Cam Newton differently from the NFL's other players...especially the quarterbacks.
That's fine, though. I expected it. Such always happens when you take a strong stand, and I have a reputation for being quite blunt at times. With all the PC-ness around these days, I figure it's the best way for ME to get my point across, at least. I can't speak for others.
I also found a LOT of support for what I was saying, too, and from apparently "random fans" who have quietly been wondering the same things that I voiced.
What I voiced is that we now have FOUR solid data points that say something is "up" when it comes to the NFL and the Carolina Panthers:
1) Last year's OHell Beckham, Joonyer's nationally-televised hissy fit against Josh Norman. Clearly, Norman had been living rent-free in OHell's head for weeks -- OHell wore some sorta socks referencing the Panthers/Norman in a previous game against Miami so nooooo, he wasn't looking ahead. At any rate, if you'll recall the running start he got then used his helmet as a weapon to hit Norman in the jaw. Fortunately, he only got a glancing blow in and no damage was done to Norman, although OHell's reputation took a permanent hit.
2) There are two NFL teams who did not benefit a single time from a "roughing the passer" penalty against the opposing defense. The Cincinnati Bengals was one. I'll give you three guess as to the other team's identity and the first two don't count.
3) Super Bowl 50 -- The Panthers didn't deserve to win the game in the first place, but it would have been nicer to see them lose with an unbiased officiating crew on-hand. Ron Rivera had to use challenges to correct official "errors" on the field; even then, they didn't uphold what cameras showed quite clearly, especially in that first quarter when a Panthers WR (Cotchery, I think?) made a catch over the middle that would have given the Panthers some early momentum and a 25-yard gain or so. That's huge in the biggest game of the season. Officials decided that the printed rules didn't apply in this case and let the call on the field "stand."
4) Thursday night's season-opener -- The NFL had 6 months to straighten things out on the officiating front & the result was that things went from bad to completely deplorable. Newton took at least four shots to the head...only one of which was called, and even it was negated because Cam, with a Denver defender's helmet crown in his chops, wasn't able to get a pass to the line of scrimmage and was called for intentional grounding. Funny, how Derek Carr did NOT receive a flag for the same thing (only minus the impending hit to the head) against New Orleans...yep, check it out at roughly 9:15 left in the 2nd Quarter. He ran right, out of the pocket, saw defenders closing on him, and simply threw the ball into the ground.
The NFL, for their part, claimed one of the hits not called should have been flagged...the one by the Other Brandon Marshall. The problem isn't with that but with their explanation of the hit where they had the offsetting penalties I described above. They said "no flag was warranted for a hit to the head because Cam wasn't in the pocket." On another they said it was a "judgement call" because Von Miller was "in the process of shedding a block and tackling Cam."
Okay, now this is where things are getting stupid. Wide receivers constantly get flags in their favor when defenders "launch" -- or leave the ground -- while hitting the defender. I wasn't aware of any "pocket" being around a wide receiver who just made a catch downfield.
Also, the rules say absolutely nothing about intent. Here's a link that opens in a new window to relevant parts of the NFL's rules about it. Open & read...my article will still be here to finish being read when you're done. You can also download the 2016 version of the entire NFL rulebook here.
Yes, there is "incidental" contact. However, from what I've seen called since the rule was put into effect, pretty much any helmet-to-helmet contact of any consequence IS flagged. This seems to be the default call...except when it comes to Carolina & Josh Norman (last year -- or was OHell's crown hit "incidental" too?) and Cam in ANY year, apparently.
Rule (f)(1) seems to cover the idea. However, the NFL's statement as to why it should NOT have been penalized flies in the face of their own rules. Here's the text:
"(1) Forcibly hitting the defenseless player’s head, neck, or face with the helmet or facemask, regardless of whether the defensive player also uses his arms to tackle the defenseless player by encircling or grasping him; or"
(BTW, (1) above DIRECTLY CONTRADICTS the NFL's "official explanation" of why the Miller hit wasn't flagged.)
(2) Lowering the head and violently or unnecessarily making forcible contact with the “hairline” or forehead part of the helmet against any part of the defenseless player’s body; or
(3) “Launching” (springing forward and upward) into a defenseless player, or otherwise striking him in a way that causes the defensive player’s helmet or facemask to forcibly strike the defenseless player’s head, neck, or face—even if the initial contact of the defender’s helmet or facemask is lower than the defenseless player’s neck. (Examples: a defender buries his facemask into a defenseless player’s high chest area, but the defender’s trajectory as he leaps into the defenseless player causes the defender’s helmet to strike the defenseless player violently in the head or face; or a defender, using a face-on posture or with his head slightly lowered, hits a defenseless player in an area below the defenseless player’s neck, then the defender’s head moves upward, resulting in strong contact by the defender’s mask or helmet with the defenseless player’s head, neck, or face [an example is the so-called “dip and rip” technique]).
So, here we have the rules vs. what the NFL said. The two do not compute, since the only "exception" involves "non-crown" areas of the defender's helmet which infers the crown area means a flag is called for regardless. The photo above illustrates a "launching" player in Brandon Marshall.
Oh! What about if an official isn't certain if he should throw a flag in a given situation in the first place? What should he do?
Note: If in doubt about a roughness call or potentially dangerous tactics, the covering official(s) should always call unnecessary roughness.
Well, that answers that, doesn't it? But what about a QB in/out of the pocket?:
Note: Defenseless players in (f) and (g) shall include (i) a player in the act of or just after throwing a pass;
Whoops! Now isn't THAT problematic for the NFL's "explanation?" They claimed the fact he was outside the pocket made a difference, when no such distinction exists in the rules.
In other words, we're now at the point where the NFL is simply making it up as they go along.
No...the more the NFL tries to 'splain themselves, there's a saying: When you're in a hole, STOP DIGGING!
I almost forgot #5, below:
5) Or perhaps in a rare moment of clarity, Ed Hochuli himself may have provided a glimpse of the "thought" *AHEM* that goes into the flagging or not, just last year about this time:
"You're not old enough to get that call." -- Ed Hochuli
As of last Thursday night, it looks like Cam is still not "old enough" to get that call. In full disclosure, there's always been debate whether or not he actually said this or Cam made it up. It may well be that Hochuli's version, saying he explained to Cam that he was considered a runner, may be true. The argument in the case Cam was truthful or not isn't what's in question now, but the logic behind the claim. In any case, at the rate things are going, he won't live long enough to "get that call" even if Hochuli never said anything about Cam's age.
Fans, including me, are on edge that the NFL's internal, opaque politics are ruining the game and turning it into some sort of "blood sport" as one fan put it. One ESPN analyst said "CLEARLY, Cam is being held to a different standard when it comes to officiating & enforcing the rules."
If that's the case, then the NFL has no credibility at all, especially with all the jawing about "player safety" in recent years. Seeing ANY player, regardless of team or outcome, being subjected to the kind of abuse Newton absorbed is uncomfortable to watch at best. If it really IS sanctioned on ANY level by the NFL, or if I see one more game similar to the Monstrosity at Mile High (my pet-name for last week's "game"), then I stand by what I originally said. I'll be DONE with the NFL. My moral character won't allow me to in any way support an organization that would even consider officiating differently for different players.
The NFL & Goodell go out of their way to claim "the integrity of the league" along with player safety are their paramount concerns. The words & actions of the officials on the field, over at least four different contests that I mentioned above, continue to demonstrate otherwise.
The NFL is officially on-notice from ME now: Clean up your act NOW or start losing fans...beginning with me!
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