Cam Newton

Thursday night's NFL season opener between Denver and Carolina and the disregard for quarterback Cam Newton's brain health was a stark reminder of how far the league has to go in safeguarding players from the ramifications of concussions.

Newton appeared to be hit in the head at least four times and remained in the game. The third hit administered by linebacker Von Miller was clearly helmet on helmet, and the referees missed the call. The last hit resulted in a penalty, but it was wiped out by an intentional grounding call on the offense.

Cam Newton

Newton rose from the field very slowly after the last hit. Where was the concussion protocol? He was not removed from the game by a trainer. He was not removed from the game by a coach. He was not removed from the game by the neutral sideline concussion expert. No one diagnosed his symptoms.

He simply kept playing.

To expect a player to diagnose his own symptoms and remove himself from the game is an absurdity. First of all, he has been hit in the head and is in no condition to make that decision. Second, players are in a state of denial about long-term health implications from the day they start playing Pop Warner and Little League. They are surrounded by hyper competitive peer groups who will do anything to play the next play. They fear being seen as "training table" players and "weak" and losing their position on the team. They are constantly praised for being willing to sacrifice their body for the good of the team.

NBC announcer Cris Collinsworth heaped heavy praise from the broadcast booth on the NFL and its commitment to the concussion protocol and player safety. Something different kept occurring on the field.

Officials need to enforce the rules in place specifically outlawing targeting and helmet to helmet hits on defenseless players. Trainers and coaches need to pull impaired players from games and caution needs to prevail. The concussion specialists on the sidelines need to assert themselves. The brain is the center of memory, reasoning, character and personality -- injury to the brain steals the victims humanity.

-- Leigh Steinberg has represented many of the most successful athletes and coaches in football, basketball, baseball, hockey, boxing and golf, including the first overall pick in the NFL draft an unprecedented eight times, among more than 60 first-round selections. His clients have included Hall of Fame quarterbacks Steve Young, Troy Aikman and Warren Moon, and he served as the inspiration for the movie "Jerry Maguire." Follow him on Twitter @leighsteinberg.