Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported the news Monday, noting the league is looking into whether Newton could jog off the field during the Panthers' 31-26 loss to the New Orleans Saints in an NFC Wild Card Game on Sunday.
Rapoport said Newton should have been taken to the locker room if he couldn't, though Rapoport granted the Panthers believed Newton went to the sideline after he was poked in the eye to allow Derek Anderson more time to warm up:
Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk added context to what the league sees as the proper steps to take when using the concussion protocol:
Michael David Smith @MichaelDavSmith
Nine days ago the NFL announced it would "Require a locker room concussion evaluation for all players demonstrating gross or sustained vertical instability (e.g., stumbling or falling to the ground when trying to stand)" Cam Newton was stumbling but wasn't sent to the locker room
However, Carolina announced during the game Newton was "evaluated for a concussion and cleared" after he was hit by Saints defensive lineman David Onyemata.
Though Newton went to the ground on his way to the sideline, he said it was because of an eye injury and not a head injury, per NFL Network's Tiffany Blackmon: "I know it was a precautionary concussion protocol thing that happened, but it wasn't my head, it was my eye."
Anderson entered the game for one play, a third-down incompletion, and Newton returned on the next drive. He led a touchdown march that got Carolina within one score, but its next and final possession ended with a turnover on downs.
If the NFL punishes the Panthers for failing to properly use the concussion protocol, it won't be the first time the league took such action this season. It previously fined the Seattle Seahawks $100,000 for not properly utilizing the protocol after quarterback Russell Wilson was hit during a Week 10 win over the Arizona Cardinals.
The Seattle coaching and medical staffs were also required to attend additional training.