The Patriots and Panthers had their last joint practice on Wednesday and things got heated between both teams once again as multiple fights broke out.
After a contentious practice together on Tuesday, with multiple players being ejected for taking part in the fighting, the Patriots and Panthers began their day on Wednesday with a clean slate; or so it was thought.
The practice began as usual but quickly escalated between the teams throughout the day.
The first brawl of the day during a kickoff return drill. Panthers’ Kenny Robinson appeared to have knocked out Patriots’ Kristian Wilkerson, then stood over him after the play concluded. This led players from both rosters to approach Robinson.
Shortly after another fight would take place, this time involving Patriots’ Deatrich Wise Jr. and Panthers’ Christian McCaffrey. This would lead to both Wise and Chuba Hubbard to be excused from practice the rest of the day.
It was apparent that the tension between both teams was very high and not settled from the day before.
ESPN’s Mike Reiss mentioned he had never seen anything like it from New England since he began covering the team, saying, “Never seen it get to this point in any joint practice with the Patriots in Bill Belichick’s tenure (2000-present).”
It’s unclear why this all took place two days in a row. It’s very uncharacteristic of a Belichick-led team to participate in this much fighting.
It was reported both teams were chirping at each other throughout the day, which is common in joint practices or even on game day. But that shouldn’t lead to the amount of madness that ensued this week.
Post-practice discussion from Patriots players
Several players spoke to the media at the end of camp, including Matthew Slater. He mentioned he was “not surprised” by the fighting, saying it has been happening for years since the league implemented joint practices.
Slater would go on to say he doesn’t dislike practicing with other teams, but he’s not willing to accept the extra unnecessary drama that occurs.
“It’s good to get that work against guys that don’t know your techniques that are competing at a high level, and I think that’s one of the benefits of these practices,” he said. “But as I said, all aspects of these practices are not beneficial. That’s just the reality.”
When asked about the original brawl that led to Wilkerson being carted of the field, Slater said, “I’ve got a teammate down on the field who’s now being medically evaluated offsite. That’s a cause for concern. We’re not going to sit here and celebrate those types of plays. That’s not how you do it.”
Fellow veteran Devin McCourty would comment on the situation as well.
Slater would continue the discussion and emphasize the importance of getting back to why they are here; to play football.
“Look, when we get into a game situation, we can’t have the type of issues that we’ve had this week. It’ll cost our team. So I think it was a time for us to refocus and get back to playing football. We’re not MMA fighters. We’re not Mike Tyson. We need to come out here and play football.”
Both coach Belichick and Matt Rhule would huddle their players together at the end of practice, having discussions one can only assume regarding the events of the day.
There’s a no-tolerance policy with Belichick when it comes to this kind of thing, making the fact it occurred two days in a row much more shocking. The Patriots (and Panthers) will need to clean things up before their next joint practices, or they will continue having unproductive practices before the season begins.