By MICHAEL FRANCA
The NFL season began with a match-up between last season’s Super Bowl finalists – the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers.
The game was a close affair that came down to a last-second field goal attempt by the Panthers. After a strategic icing of the kicker by Broncos Coach Gary Kubiak, Graham Gano pulled his 50-yard attempt wide left.
This game provided more story lines than just the final score, however.
Following the defeat, reporters asked reigning MVP Cam Newton about concussion testing he seemed to be receiving on the sideline.
“I don’t remember,” he said, “Too much going through my head right now.”
While it may be possible Newton was just too busy to recall the kind of questions he was asked, many news media outlets appear to be questioning it. The concern is that his foggy memory is a result of the repeated blows to the head he took during the game.
Newton was knocked around throughout the affair and looked shaken-up on more than one occasion.
Traditionally, cases similar to this one would go unnoticed and unreported, but things are different this time.
While Newton’s stardom certainly played a part in the coverage, it was likely not the only factor. A growing public awareness of concussions and the effects of repeated head trauma in the NFL has led to a much-needed sensitivity on the topic.
What once was considered, “just a part of football,” is now being recognized for the major issue it truly is.
Thanks to some shoddy refereeing, most of the helmet-to-helmet hits were not penalized. This has opened the referees up to warranted public criticism.
If they can’t protect the NFL’s brightest star, who can they protect?