A blatantly late, helmet-to-helmet hit on Cam Newton justifiably drew a flag for unnecessary roughness and also resulted in the ejection of Atlanta Falcons safety Damontae Kazee.
Facing a fourth down in Atlanta territory, the Panthers elected to go for it and Newton escaped pressure for a gain of about 10 yards to move the chains. Despite the fact that Newton slid down, Kazee flew in late to deliver a hit to Newton’s facemask with the crown of his helmet.
The hit created a scuffle between the two teams after Panthers receiver Torrey Smith ran into shove Kazee. Unnecessary roughness was called on Smith, causing the two penalties to offset, but the first down still applied and Kazee was ejected.
While the NFL created a new rule this offseason to legislate against tackling with the helmet, Kazee’s hit would’ve been illegal long before the new rule was put in place. This wasn’t a case of the new rule in action.
NFL confirms that the Damontae Kazee ejection was for unnecessary roughness, not for lowering his head to use his helmet to initiate a hit. That’s two ejections in two weeks league-wide (Shawn Williams, Kazee) for unnecessary roughness for hits on QBs at the end of runs.
— MarkMaske (@MarkMaske) September 16, 2018
Newton was quick to get back to his feet and went to the medical tent on the sideline where the team said he was cleared for a concussion. He was back on the field in time for the next play.
The Panthers have been investigated twice in the previous two seasons for keeping Newton in action after violent hits to the head. In 2016, the team was cleared of any wrongdoing, but it caused the NFL to make changes to its concussion protocol to better protect players like Newton in the future. The Panthers were again cleared in 2017 after Newton was quickly evaluated and allowed to re-enter a game.
A few plays after his return to the field Sunday, Newton threw a 5-yard touchdown to Jarius Wright that gave the Panthers a 10-3 lead over the Falcons.