Cam Newton was smacked in the helmet not once by a Denver Bronco defense, not twice, but four times in their season opener Thursday.
Some say this adds up to a defense that plays dirty.
The Broncos shake their heads in disbelief at such a claim.
“When I think of dirty I think of stepping on somebody’s ankle at the bottom of the pile,’’ said linebacker Brandon Marshall. “Twisting somebody around. We just play hard, man, we hit hard. We play fast, we play faster than any defense in the league in my opinion. Just because we hit Cam in the head a couple times that doesn’t make us dirty.’’
The hit to the head that seemed to shake up the Carolina quarterback the most was the one delivered by Broncos’ safety Darian Stewart with 36 seconds remaining. Newton stayed in, moved the Panthers into field goal range, only to have Graham Gano yank his 50-yard try left.
“I thought it was clean,’’ Stewart said. “Speed of the game that’s all it was. Nothing intentional. I didn’t pay attention when he was on the ground. (Greg) Olson, the tight end said something to me, I couldn’t hear exactly what. He should have released on the route, then. I had him if he took off.’’
Does Stewart believe he will be fined for his hit?
“Do I think I’ll get fined? Yeah,’’ Stewart said. “Do I think deserve to be fined? No. At the end of the day, he had the ball like he was running.’’
The helmet hits from Stewart, Von Miller and Shaq Barrett did seem to be incidental strikes. The blast from Marshall didn’t look good.
“It didn’t,’’ Marshall said. “I don’t want to say too much because I know they’re going to fine me. I’m going to get a letter, I’m going to talk to them.’’
That was a hard-hitting game the Broncos played Thursday, and I think it was because Newton is such a physical, running quarterback.
So is Andrew Luck, whom the Broncos play this Sunday. Last year, then Broncos linebacker Danny Trevathan hit Luck so hard, the quarterback suffered a lacerated kidney and torn abdominal muscle, injuries that ended his season.
There was no talk of dirty play then.
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