By Ted Fleming
You might call it the “Bump heard ‘round the Panthers’ World,” and for Cam Newton, he is likely to be hearing from officials at the NFL offices in New York in short order.
It was late in the game and Newton had grown tired of Oakland Raiders following through on their hits long after he had released the ball. He had just been leveled by Mike Mitchell after a checkdown pass, and because no flag was thrown, he bounced up and charged referee Jerome Boger, ultimately bumping him while barking out expletives along the way.
The 23-year-old quarterback was seen apologizing to the ref after the final gun and he did so publically after the game. “To the referee Jerome Boger, the words I used were very disrespectful,” he said. “I apologized to him during the game but I’m going public and apologizing again. It was just in the heat of the moment so the next time I see him we’ll be on good terms.”
The words, by themselves, would have likely drawn an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, but Boger did not pull the flag out until after the bump and yet, he didn’t eject Newton saying afterwards that he believed the contact was not of a malicious nature.
The focus seems on the spoken word and that seems illogical. How is that more egregious than the belly bump? Contact is contact regardless of intent and the strangest thing not to come out of the entire sequence was the non-ejection of Newton. While it is a rule, according to a tweet by former referee Mike Pereira, “Cam Newton is lucky he didn’t get ejected. The referee must have not felt the contact was severe enough. It’s not automatic.”
Therein lies the rub.
Apologies notwithstanding, the NFL may view this differently than Jerome Boger, but before that happens they will have to deal with Newton’s kick of Raiders’ DT Desmond Bryant. “[I] was just trying to get up,” he said after the game. “Nothing good happens when you are at the bottom of the pile. With me looking at the replay I realize it looked like I kicked him but I was just trying to get up as quick as I can to get the next play.”Boger’s postgame report and the video evidence of this separate incident do not substantiate Newton’s claim.
It has been said that Roger Goodell has lost some of his power after the reversal of the so-called Bounty Gate penalties and Newton’s actions could prove the first real test of the commissioner’s power to levy fines and/or suspensions. Individually the kick and bump would simply draw fines, but because they were done by the same person in the same game Goodell may want to reprise his law and order reputation and tell the young quarterback to sit out the first game of his professional career.
The Panthers may have to wait until next year if they want to tie or break their record for the most players on injured reserve. To date there have been 17 names added to that list and when rookie Amini Silatolu went down with a dislocated wrist this past Sunday it was thought he would be the one to tie the mark. According to head coach Ron Rivera, no decision has been made yet but it was unlikely because there is just one game remaining in the season.
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Ted Fleming is a freelance writer covering all things Carolina Panthers. His work can be found on Examiner.com.