The NFL has determined officials erred in not flagging Denver Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall for his hit to Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton’s head in Thursday’s kickoff game.
Dean Blandino, the league’s senior vice president of officiating, and his staff reviewed the play as part of their normal process and determined Marshall should’ve been flagged for delivering a blow to Newton’s head after he’d released the ball in the third quarter, a person with knowledge of the situation told USA TODAY Sports on Friday.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to comment publicly.
The play will be subject to the NFL’s normal review process for discipline, and Marshall is likely facing a fine.
Newton took at least four helmet-to-helmet shots in the Panthers’ 21-20 loss, but only one was flagged – correctly, against Broncos safety Darian Stewart in the fourth quarter.
Based on NFL rules, a hit by Jared Crick on Newton in the first quarter was legal because Crick delivered a shoulder to the body and Newton was outside the pocket, so he didn’t have one-step protection.
Replays also showed Broncos linebacker Von Miller making contact with Newton’s helmet on a play in the third quarter, but he was engaged with a blocker at the time as Newton was sacked by DeMarcus Ware, making it a judgment call.
Asked after the game if he felt he received fair and adequate protection from referee Gene Steratore and his crew, Newton said: “It’s not my job to question the officials. I really like this officiating crew. So, it wasn’t something that I know they did intentionally. But it’s not fun getting hit in the head. We’ve just got to find ways. We didn’t lose the game off that. I know that for a fact.”
The game also drew scrutiny because Newton was left in the game after Stewart’s hit in the final minute, rather than going to the sideline for evaluation for a concussion. The NFL released a statement Friday morning saying protocol was followed and “there were no indications of a concussion that would require further evaluation and the removal of the player from the game.”
The NFL Players Association also says it is reviewing the situation.