The New England Patriots and Carolina Panthers may have rung the bell for Round 2 on Wednesday afternoon as players were at each other’s throats again during their joint practice — and this time with injuries.
The day of skirmishes began during a kickoff return drill when Carolina safety Kenny Robinson took a big hit on Patriots wide receiver Christian Wilkerson. Robinson then stood behind Wilkerson and taunted him. Wilkerson’s teammate, Matt Slater, was one of those who took issue with the play, and it led to some pushing and shoving.
Wilkerson was taken off the field on a cart and was being evaluated “off site” for his injury. Robinson, who had previously been ejected from Tuesday’s practice for his involvement in a scuffle with Wilkerson, was carried off the field by an assistant and the joint session between the two franchises that met during Super Bowl XXXVIII resumed.
Scraping is far from complete.
During an 11-on-11 drill, Panthers star running back Christian McCaffrey took a hit near the sideline. He appeared to take exception to the hit and threw the ball to a Patriots defender when he got back to his feet. That led to another scrum on the fan area. At least one female fan was hit, according to the Associated Press.
NFL referees told Panthers coach Matt Rhule that running back Chewba Hubbard threw a punch and was ejected. Patriots defensive lineman Dietrich Wise Jr. was also ejected from the play.
After the session, Slater and others talked about the test.
“It’s cause for concern,” Slater said of the incident with Robinson and Wilkerson. “We’re not going to sit here and celebrate this kind of drama. We’re not going to do that. … Look, I’m not fighting. I’ve got four kids, my wife’s out here. What to do? I look? I’m 36 years old. I no punches.
“But when you have a teammate who gets hit, he’s down. There are obvious symptoms of what happened to him. We all know what those look like as football players. He’s showing these symptoms and then you have players celebrating those actions. Let me make a point of it.”
McCaffrey acknowledged how hot it can get on the field.
“Sometimes there’s a little irritation here. That’s just the way it goes,” he said. “It is what it is. A little scrum. It happens. Football’s football. You go to these joint practices – it’s part of the game.”
Rule said the events gave him what he thought was solid practice. He added that he hopes the woman who was shocked is okay.
The two teams will meet in a preseason game on Friday night.