Rivera on concussion protocol: Don't question integrity

Cam Newton took a crushing blow to the helmet while coasting towards the end zone during Carolina's 41-38 win over New Orleans.

Newton left briefly to get checked for a concussion after throwing a touchdown several plays following the big hit. He was cleared and didn't miss a snap.

A fiery Ron Rivera got defensive Monday when asked about how seriously the team takes the concussion issue.

"We've discussed this before," the Panthers coach said. "I went through and answered all your questions yesterday. I gave you all your information. In fact, I understood you called the league to make sure we do what we're supposed to.

"We follow the rules here. Don't question my integrity when it comes to these things. Understand that. I try to be as forthright as I can when I answer your questions and when I'm doing that, the least I could do is get the common courtesy that I'm being believed. I take it very seriously."

Rivera continued: "And it is not up to me to make those decisions and these calls. It's up to the doctors. Just so you understand that. I'm being very very upfront with this and very forward because it does bother me. I'm not the doctor. I'm not the one who makes these decisions. We have a protocol. We follow the protocol. We've had players stay out for, what, three, four weeks and at no point did we force that young man or onto the field because we believed him. So please, do not question me on this."

The behemoth Newton took several nasty blows in Sunday's win. Rivera said he wants to limit the hits on his MVP candidate as much as possible down the stretch, but at 12-0, playoff positioning remains on the line.

After the game Sunday, Newton dismissed the hits that he subjects himself to as a running quarterback.

"It's a physical sport. It's not ballet. ... It's a collision sport. I know that and I understand that. But I'm fine," he said, via the Charlotte Observer.

The Panthers own one of the best run games in the NFL. They are also the only team that has rushed the ball on more than 50 percent of their plays this season, in large part because of Newton's ability as a runner.

Newton is the best dual-threat quarterback in the NFL, making the Panthers nearly unstoppable in short yardage and in the red zone.

The star quarterback is likely to take more big hits as the season presses to a close. Just don't question Rivera's integrity when it comes to protecting his most valuable asset.

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