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Don't blame Cam Newton or Trent Murphy for confusion on hit. Blame the NFL

Don't blame Cam Newton or Trent Murphy for confusion on hit. Blame the NFL

Don't blame Cam Newton or Trent Murphy for the uproar and confusion over a borderline hit Monday night. Blame the NFL.

The hit came during Monday's Panthers road win in Washington as Cam Newton ran with the ball. As the 2015 MVP approached the sideline, he slid, only that didn't stop Murphy from launching himself at Newton.

While the players tangled on the sideline, a flag flew up, and at first glance it seemed obvious Murphy would get penalized for going in on Newton as he slid. Then, upon replay, it became more obvious that while it was slight, Murphy made contact with Newton's head. 

Only the flag was not on Murphy; instead the penalty was for Newton. The quarterback's actions were certainly worthy of a penalty - he threw the football into Murphy's face, a blatant taunt - and Newton knew he made a mistake.

"I thought it was a questionable hit, but yeah, I can’t throw a ball at a person. I know that’s against the rules.”

Newton definitely deserved the flag for the taunt, but most observers would expect offsetting penalties after Murphy's hit. Asked about the play on Tuesday, Redskins coach Jay Gruden seemed to share in the confusion.

"It was kind of like a bang-bang type play. I thought the flag could have gone either way," Gruden said. "That’s the way it is with a lot of flags nowadays. I don’t know. I just wait for them to call it and I accept whatever they call. If I can challenge it, I’ll challenge it. If not, it is what it is."

RELATED: JORDAN REED GETS EJECTED FOR THROWING A PUNCH AT KURT COLEMAN

That so many people have gotten upset about the call underlies the ambiguity of NFL referreeing. From week to week, it's near impossible to know for certain what constitutes a catch, a defenseless receiver, or in this case, a quarterback sliding or a quarterback becoming a runner. Combine that with the fact that Newton has repeatedly complained that NFL refs don't protect him like other passers, and it's hard to look at the hit from Murphy as just one play.

Additionally, it's not undeniably clear that Murphy's actions warranted a penalty. When Murphy launched for the hit, Newton had not begun his slide, and the contact might have been inadvertent. That said, nine times out of 10, it seems the NFL will call that to protect a QB. 

"I really didn’t think Trent went after his head," Gruden said. "I was going to yell at the ref if he called that on Trent. I was happy that he called it on Cam. Whether that was a penalty or not, I don’t know, but that’s what they called, so, so be it."

Welcome to the NFL in 2016, where nobody knows what makes a penalty, not even the refs.

MORE REDSKINS: GALLERY: WEEK 15 - PANTHERS 26, REDSKINS 15

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Eagles head coach Doug Pederson tests positive for coronavirus

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson tests positive for coronavirus

Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson has tested positive for coronavirus, the team confirmed on Sunday. Pederson is currently asymptomatic and following the established protocol which includes a self-quarantine.

Pederson is the second NFL head coach to contract the virus, as New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton shared that he tested positive back in March. 

Positive tests throughout the league come as no surprise as the pandemic continues on and players and staff begin to report to training camp. The situation around the league is a reminder of the health and safety risks that come with football restarting.

RELATED: REPORT: NFL PLAYERS MUST DECIDE TO OPT OUT OR NOT BY AUG. 5

Players and coaches are aware of that, and many have already announced that they are opting out of the 2020 NFL season. In Washington, Caleb Brantley is the only member of the roster to have removed himself from the campaign so far.

By Wednesday, August 5, all players will reportedly have to decide whether or not they will participate in the season as the league has set an opt-out deadline for that day. With 40 or so players already withdrawing and COVID-19 not going away in the near future, that number is likely to increase.

Though the NFL is working hard to put the proper protocols in place, the results from initial tests show that challenges remain. 

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Report: NFL players must decide whether or not to opt out by Wednesday

Report: NFL players must decide whether or not to opt out by Wednesday

The clock is ticking for NFL players to make a decision regarding their playing status for the 2020 season.

The league is expected to set an opt-out deadline for Wednesday, August 5, ESPN's Adam Schefter reports. While the decision is not finalized, Wednesday's deadline appears imminent.

Across the NFL, we've seen several players opt-out of the 2020 season as the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage across the United States. The New England Patriots have seen a league-high eight players forego the 2020 season. While none of the league's top stars have decided to sit out the 2020 season -- yet -- New York Jets Jets Pro Bowl linebacker C.J. Mosley and Chiefs Super Bowl hero Damien Williams headline the most notable players to opt-out.

Locally, Washington has had just one player -- defensive lineman Caleb Brantley -- opt-out, while the Ravens have lost two players for the season in De'Anthony Thomas and Andre Smith.

There's a reason the NFL is setting its opt-out deadline for nearly six weeks before Week 1. According to ProFootballTalk's Mike Florio, the league wants to shorten its opt-out window because teams feel that players on the roster bubble are using the benefits of opting out as leverage.

For players that choose to forego the 2020 season, they will either earn a $350,000 stipend (for players who are deemed high-risk) or a $150,000 stiped (those not deemed high-risk).

The NFL is not the only league to see its players decide to skip the season in the midst of a pandemic. Several NBA players opted not to travel to Orlando for the season's resumption, while the MLB is still seeing players opt-out two weeks into its season.

With the NFL's opt-out reported deadline less than four days away, it's likely more will join the nearly 40 different players that have decided to pass on the season.

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