Cam Newton, Panthers speak out about hits QB took from Broncos

Cam Newton absorbed helmet hits several times in Thursday night’s season-opening loss to the Denver Broncos, including on a third-quarter sack that left him hurting on the sideline.

Newton wasn’t the same after that sack. But he toughed it out and stayed in the game, driving the Panthers into field goal range late in the fourth quarter with a chance to win the game. He then suffered yet another helmet hit — the fifth of the night, according to FOX Sports’ Chris Chase, and the first that drew a flag. However, it was wiped out by an offsetting penalty on the Panthers.

Newton didn’t seem sore at the Broncos after the loss, congratulating DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller, who delivered that painful sack.

He also said he didn’t think he was being targeted in his postgame press conference, but said he advised the officials about the hits to the helmet, to no avail.

"It’s not my job to question the officials," Newton told reporters. "I really like this officiating crew, so it wasn’t something I know they did intentionally, but it’s not fun getting hit in the head."

Coach Ron Rivera said Newton absorbed "a couple shots" but would wait until he saw the tape before discussing them more.

However, several teammates spoke out on behalf of Newton and said he needs to be protected "like a quarterback."

Some Broncos players countered by saying Newton plays more like a running back. Safety T.J. Ward told reporters "We wanted to make sure it got to him, so every time he ran, we wanted to put a helmet or shoulder pad on him and if he’s not going to slide, then we’re really going to put something on you.

"We’ve seen him limping throughout the game. That running stuff, you can’t do that all game with your quarterback."

"They have an advantage with Cam," Ward added. "He’s the quarterback and you can’t account for that on defense. They have one more blocker when he runs the ball. If you’re going to run your quarterback, you’re going to have to take the repercussions that come with it. That’s potentially getting him hurt or you see him get hit a couple times today. I’m sure they don’t want to start the season off like that."

Safety Darian Steward, who was flagged for his helmet hit on Newton, would only say he thought he hit him with his shoulder and hoped he didn’t get fined.

Newton said he went through the concussion protocol after the game and passed. However, he also said he didn’t remember details from the end of the game, and reporters, analysts and fans questioned whether Newton should have gone through it during the game, and maybe have been removed, and why more helmet hits weren’t called.