STEVE REED, AP Sports Writer
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Panthers quarterback Cam Newton said he’s not worried about the long-term effects of repeated hits to his head.
The league’s MVP took four helmet-to-helmet shots in Carolina’s 21-20 loss to the Denver Broncos, although only one of the hits drew a flag and none resulted in any penalty yardage. However, two Denver players have been fined a total of $42,540 — but not suspended — by the NFL, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press.
Despite the well-publicized effects of repeated concussions to NFL players, Newton said his focus is solely on winning football games.
“That’s it, winning,” Newton said Wednesday when asked about his long-term health. “… I’m not here to worry about retirement plans. I’m not here to worry about pensions. I’m not here to worry about worker’s (compensation). I’m here to win football games, simple and plain.”
The 27-year-old quarterback added, “this is a contact sport. This is a physical sport. I play the game for the right reasons. Whatever coach asks me to do I’m going to do it to win football games.”
Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall was fined $24,309 and safety Darian Stewart $18,231 for helmet-to-helmet hits Newton, a person told the AP, speaking on condition of anonymity Wednesday because the NFL hasn’t announced the fines.
Newton had no reaction to the fines, saying there’s “no need to look back.”
“Well I wish some calls could have gotten made in the game,” Panthers left tackle Michael Oher said. “There were some calls that could have been made. But maybe in the future he will be treated more like a quarterback.”
Newton added that he doesn’t feel the need to lobby for his health, even as his teammates and coaches have done that for him.
Among those was his Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen, who said game officials treat Newton like he’s running back instead of a quarterback just because of his size. Newton is 6-foot-5 and 245 pounds and has run for more touchdowns than any quarterback in NFL history.
“I don’t think you can talk about player safety and then have what unfolded,” Olsen said of the NFL. “You can’t talk out of both sides of your mouth. Player safety sounds great. It’s a great offseason rallying crying. It sounds awesome. But we got zero yards out of any of those hits.”
Newton returned to practice on Wednesday, Carolina’s first since losing the Super Bowl rematch to the Broncos when Graham Gano’s 50-yard field goal sailed wide left in the game’s final seconds.
Newton wore his typical long black sweatpants, long-sleeve black shirt and a red No. 1 practice jersey on the field and lined up with the first-team offense.
He said he’s ready to play in Carolina’s home opener Sunday against the 49ers, who are coming off a 28-0 shutout win over the Los Angeles Rams.
When asked how he feels, Newton replied, “Unbelievable.”
“I don’t think there is a game that goes by that any NFL player doesn’t feel sore,” Newton said. “It’s a contact sport and we have to plan accordingly to get back to 100 percent.”
The league and the NFL Players Association are investigating the hit from Stewart that occurred with 36 remaining in the loss to the Broncos.
Newton was slow to get up from the hit but remained in the game.
The quarterback said the team’s training staff handled the situation appropriately.
Coach Ron Rivera said that Newton has passed all of the concussion tests the team’s medical staff has administered since he took the shots to the head.
“I was asked on the sideline about awareness and my ability to keep going from the referee, as well as the training staff,” Newton said. “There is no doubt that everything will work out in itself. There is no question that I took a couple of hits to the head but I don’t think I showed any signs of being concussed. It was no wooziness and guys kind of stumbled and I see where it affects their play afterward. … I understand I was kind of hurt, but that comes with football and it being a contact sport.”
AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Stapleton in Denver contributed to this report.
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