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In wake of Cam Newton pummeling, Roger Goodell pens letter on player safety

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—Thursday night to kick off the NFL season, Cam Newton got pummeled.

The hits were illegal but they kept coming.  Wednesday, the NFL followed up with fines for two Denver Bronco defenders. Brandon Marshall and Darian Stewart were each fined. Marshall just over $18,000 and Stewart about $24,000.

Marshall denied claims from the Panthers that the Broncos played dirty.

“We’re not dirty,” Marshall said via the Denver Post.

“When I think of dirty, I think of stepping on somebody’s ankle at the bottom of a pile (or) twisting somebody around. Stuff like that. We just play hard, man. We hit hard. We play fast. We play faster than any defense in the league. Just because we hit Cam in the head a couple of times, that doesn’t make us dirty. Look at some of the dirty plays in the league. There are a lot of dirty players, and that’s not our M.O.”

Further, things got testy this week when the media questioned Panthers head coach Ron Rivera as to why Newton was allowed to continue playing after taking several shots to the head.

“I’m not the doctor, my understanding is he went through the initial steps during the game and after the game, and my understanding he had several exams all of which he passed,”

“I’m not going to question the doctors,”

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Wednesday commissioner Roger Goodell also penned a letter stating the NFL’s commitment to player safety. 

For the NFL league office, Wednesday’s letter or “announcement”, represents a continued, if not non-stop, effort to change the conversation and the public perception concerning player safety and concussions.

“Our game, of course, is a contact sport,” Goodell wrote. Fans love to see the action on the field, including the big hits. While we can never completely eliminate the risk of injury, we are always striving to make the game safer—for our professional athletes down to young athletes first learning how to play.”

“Fans love to see the action on the field, including the big hits. While we can never completely eliminate the risk of injury, we are always striving to make the game safer—for our professional athletes down to young athletes first learning how to play.”

Goodell also states the NFL has been a leader in the field of health and safety, a point that many would dispute given the evidence that concussions suffered by those playing the sport have had serious detrimental health effects. Some believe that concussions could be linked to the suicides of some former NFL players.

Goodell says in terms of addressing “head injuries” (note the absence of the word concussion) he and the league’s 32 owners are not satisfied.

The hits in which Stewart and Marshall were fined were helmet-to-helmet hits. And it appears that would be the problem. Fines are nice, but ultimately for millionaires fines are not penal in nature, whereas suspensions and season-long bans are.

Dan Patrick on Wednesday asked Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com and NBC Sports on his radio show why the NFL does not have a targeting rule (where players are ejected for hits deemed to be targeted) like college football?

“I don’t know that they can change the rules that dramatically without union consent, but maybe they can,” Florio said.

“It could be they (NFL) are just not prepared to go to the bargaining table and make a concession to the union in order to get the ability in order to eject players for targeting.”