Midway through Tuesday’s joint practice, Patriots wide receiver Kristian Wilkerson finished a catch in Carolina’s sideline during a period that pitted his offense against the Panthers defense.
But before Wilkerson could return to his huddle, he was held up.
A couple Panthers defensive backs and one assistant bumped the third-year wideout and jawed with him. Wilkerson, who had been grabbed after the whistle in a prior drill, returned verbal fire and then became involved in a shoving match. The shoving escalated immediately into a brawl that pulled both team’s entire rosters onto the field and had Pats wideout Kendrick Bourne throwing punches.
The brawl dissipated within 30 seconds, though Wilkerson, Bourne and Panthers safety Kenny Robinson were kicked out.
Moments after their exit, more extra curriculars resulted in Pats backup center James Ferentz and Panthers defensive tackle Phil Hoskins getting tossed. Hoskins jumped on Patriots offensive lineman Arlington Hambright after Hambright had finished a block to the ground near Carolina’s sideline during an 11-on-11 period. Ferentz pleaded his case that he hadn’t thrown a punch, but to no avail.
At that time, the Patriots and Panthers gathered in separate huddles with their coaches at the center. The message was simple.
“We can’t fight in a game, so we can’t do it in practice,” said running back Damien Harris.
Pats coach Bill Belichick and Panthers headman Matt Rhule had agreed before practice to kick out any players who fought.
“We came here not to fight, we came here to practice,” Rhule said. “It shows the maturity of a lot of other guys that it didn’t escalate into a big thing. For us, it was a couple younger guys. We’ve gotta get better. We don’t want anyone to get hurt.
A few minutes after huddling, players on both teams returned to practice and finished without a skirmish.
“We’ve just gotta control our tempers,” said Pats wide receiver DeVante Parker. “When there’s 30 guys over there, we’re going to go over there and see what’s going on. … But can’t be (fighting). That’s really it, really.”
Story by Andrew Callahan, Boston Herald