Rivera says he's discussing with NFL ways to protect Newton

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Panthers coach Ron Rivera said he's involved in ongoing discussions with the NFL and the Players Association about ways to make sure league MVP Cam Newton is given the same protection in the pocket as other smaller quarterbacks.

Newton blasted NFL officiating following Sunday's game against the Arizona Cardinals after taking a shot to his lower right leg from defensive tackle Calais Campbell as he was releasing the ball. Campbell was not flagged for the hit and the Panthers settled for a short field goal rather than an automatic first down.

Newton said after the game, ''I could have torn my ACL.''

''I would like to see our quarterback get those calls,'' a calm, but stern Rivera said Monday.

Newton said Sunday that officials aren't doing enough to protect him and he ''doesn't feel safe'' on the field, which is taking the fun out of the game for him.

Rivera stood behind his quarterback on Monday, saying Newton's comments are ''correct'' and he supports him 100 percent.

Rivera reiterated what he said in September after his QB took four helmet-to-helmet hits in a loss to the Denver Broncos - that Newton doesn't get the calls because of his 6-foot-5, 245-pound frame.

''When (smaller quarterbacks) get hit, they roll around on the ground. When he gets hit, he absorbs them - and it doesn't look as bad,'' Rivera said. ''... It's about making sure he is getting the equal treatment he deserves as a quarterback in the pocket.''

Rivera was criticized for not being more vocal on the sideline and during postgame press conferences about the hits Newton has absorbed.

Former NFL coach Tony Dungy said on NBC's Football Night in America on Sunday that ''Cam should not have to be the one saying this. His head coach, his owner and everybody in the organization should be saying this.''

Rivera said he doesn't get upset on the sideline because he knows game officials have a difficult job to do and he appreciates ''meaningful conversations'' rather than engaging in a shouting match.

But Rivera said he has been constantly working behind the scenes with the NFL and the Players Association on resolving the issue. He and general manager Dave Gettleman had another conversation with the league office on Monday morning.

''This is something I work on every week, quite frankly,'' Rivera said. ''I don't talk about it because it's between me and the league and this team. This is something that has become public because of Cam's statements.''

Rivera suggested the NFL needs to add an eighth referee to help monitor hits on the quarterback. He said using replay would be a good option for reviewing questionable hits.

That is something he's expected to raise in the NFL competition committee meeting next spring. In the meantime, Rivera said he's confident the league and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will do everything they can to protect Newton this season.

''The league is looking into these things - and not just for Cam but for all quarterbacks,'' Rivera said.

Newton suggested after the game that he would like to talk personally to Goodell about his concerns.

That could happen.

''The commissioner often speaks to current and former players throughout the year,'' NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in an email.

Newton's comments were a hot topic on sports TV shows.

ESPN football analyst and former NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb said Monday that he agrees ''wholeheartedly'' with Newton's comments.

''I have been in that situation,'' McNabb said Monday on ESPN. ''When you are behind the line of scrimmage, you are a passer. When I am looking to throw the ball down the field and I get ear-holed or if I get hit low, the referee has to throw the flag. Cam is absolutely right - if Tom Brady gets hit low then they are going to throw a flag.''

Newton said Sunday that he's tired of officials telling him they missed a call.

''Enough is enough,'' Newton said Sunday. ''I don't know what I have to do. ... I don't think there is a person that can go through what I go through and still keep their head.''

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

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