- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 9, 2016

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Panthers coach Ron Rivera said the NFL needs to consider all possibilities when clamping down on targeting, including player ejections.

The NCAA currently enforces that rule, but the NFL does not.

“The biggest thing we’re trying to do is lower the target,” Rivera said Wednesday. “Maybe if we as a league look at that, and say we really do want to eliminate that, maybe the penalty has to be a little stiffer. Maybe getting guys to understand if you do this - kind of like what happened in the college game - eject the player.

“And if they eject you late in the game, you don’t get to play the next game. It seems to help. I’d like to believe it would help. If we do something to motivate guys to lower their targets, maybe it’ll help.”

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has been on the receiving end of several questionable hits this season, but no players have been ejected. He took two more helmet-to-helmet hits against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday, but no flags were thrown.

“He’s getting shots - taking them high, low and there’s no flags,” Panthers fullback Mike Tolbert said. “. … It’s the NFL’s job to protect him. They preach player safety and stuff like this happens two or three weeks in a row.”

Player ejections have become fairly commonplace in college.

In last week’s game between South Carolina and Missouri one player from each team was ejected for targeting the quarterback. A third hit was flagged for targeting, but then the play was overturned.

Rivera wouldn’t go as far as to say he would vote for such a dramatic change, but said all avenues most be considered next offseason.

Rivera said he would like to see the NFL better enforce a “strike zone” on where to hit - above the knee and below the neck.

Now you know where you’re allowed to hit a guy, especially a guy that is in a prone position standing there getting ready to throw the football,” Rivera said. “That’s a pretty nasty position to be in.”

Rivera balked when asked if he’s concerned all of the hits to the head have taken away from Newton’s longevity in the NFL.

“That’s an unfair question to ask, just so you know,” Rivera said. “But I am very concerned, not just for him but any football player.”


AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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