CHARLOTTE – Quarterback Cam Newton could no longer bite his tongue Sunday regarding the feeling that he's treated differently by referees when it comes to illegal hits.
It's the same view his head coach has, and one that Ron Rivera had already expressed behind closed doors well before Newton went public.
"This is something that I work on every week, quite frankly. I don't talk about it because it's between me and the league and this team," Rivera said. "This is something now that's become a little bit public because of his statements, and Cam is correct. I support him 100 percent in this, and hopefully we can get this rectified and corrected."
Newton, who stayed mostly quiet on the subject when he sustained several unflagged hits in the season opener, felt compelled to speak up Sunday after Cardinals defensive tackle Calais Campbell hit him low in the pocket for all the world to see. The Cardinals were fortunate to not get penalized, and Newton said he felt fortunate to not end up with a torn knee ligament.
Rivera said he too was upset about the latest oversight, but in his position, he believes rational discussions with the powers that be will be more effective than emotional outbursts.
"I get it. I've been in this league 30 years, and I know how difficult it is – it's difficult for the referees, it's difficult for the coaches and difficult for the players," Rivera said. "We've just got to continue to work through it and get the right type of solution.
"If it means having an eighth referee or using replay, maybe that's what it takes. But it's something the league is working through and the league is aware of."
Newton said after the game that he intends to speak to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell about his frustrations. Rivera already has spoken with Goodell and other league officials, sharing his theory that Newton is being handled much like Hall of Fame center Shaquille O'Neal was viewed by NBA referees back in the day.
"I think he gets a little bit of the Shaquille O'Neal treatment," Rivera said. "He's a bigger guy for that position as opposed to some of the smaller quarterbacks' statures. When they get hit, they roll around to the ground. When he gets hit, absorbs it and it doesn't look as bad.
"I think sometimes that might be part of the reason that he doesn't get the calls that he deserves or he should get. The point is more about making sure that he's getting the equal treatment and protection he deserves as a quarterback in the pocket."
Rivera said he doesn't feel like his concerns have been ignored and firmly believes the NFL is working toward solutions. He admitted, however, that he's not sure what it's going to take for promises of equal protection to translate into action.
"I know it's a difficult job the referees have, and when I've brought things up to the league before, they've responded," Rivera said. "We'll just continue, and hopefully as we go forward, we won't have to worry about this."
View photos from Carolina's win against the Cardinals by team photographer Melissa Melvin-Rodriguez.