Carolina Panthers

Tempers and temperature soar as fights break out at Panthers minicamp

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton stretches out his arms and reacts as he talks with Matthew McCaskill, 7, of Fort Bragg, during the team's minicamp practice on Wednesday, June 17, 2015. McCaskill visited the Panthers as part of the Make-A-Wish program. During the practice McCaskill wore gloves and caught passes while being escorted by his favorite player, wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin.
Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton stretches out his arms and reacts as he talks with Matthew McCaskill, 7, of Fort Bragg, during the team's minicamp practice on Wednesday, June 17, 2015. McCaskill visited the Panthers as part of the Make-A-Wish program. During the practice McCaskill wore gloves and caught passes while being escorted by his favorite player, wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Two fights broke out in near-100-degree weather Wednesday at Panthers’ veteran minicamp, and both saw punches thrown.

Backup guard Amini Silatolu and linebacker Jason Trusnik got into a scuffle early in practice that went 10 yards past the line of scrimmage. Toward the end of practice, second-year defensive end Kony Ealy and offensive tackle Michael Oher got into a scrum that eventually went to the ground.

“It’ll happen and the same thing will happen in training camp, unfortunately,” Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. “We’ve been going at it now for four weeks with OTAs (organized team activities) and now minicamp and this was our first day we had anything. It’s unfortunate and inevitable and I think the heat really had a little bit to do with it.”

Rivera expressed disappointment in both fights, specifically the punches that were thrown. Trusnik threw a punch at Silatolu and both Oher and Ealy swung in their fight.

“I don’t like the fight, but I do like the fact there was a standoff. Kony’s a young guy that’s learning, and trying to learn how to cope. And Michael’s a veteran guy,” Rivera said. “It’s kind of the young bear poking the big bear, the older bear. I was disappointed. The heat, the fatigue – but there’s not place for it. I talked to both guys privately and just made sure they knew how I felt about it.”

Ealy didn’t have much to say after practice other than he and Oher are “cool” and that it was “just football.”

Trusnik, a nine-year veteran in his first season with Carolina, said getting into it with Silatolu wasn’t about planting his flag as one of the new guys on the team.

“New or not, I’m just out here trying to get better, get to know the guys, get to know the teammates,” Trusnik said. “But I’m also here to show what kind of player I am. We’re a team and we’ve got to be a team.”

Said Rivera: “You’ve got to treat each other like brothers, and if you had a fight with a brother, you wouldn’t swing at him, you’d probably want to make sure you talk to your mom and dad. My office is open.”

Injury update: Running back Fozzy Whittaker and tight end Ed Dickson injured their groins and did not practice Wednesday.

Defensive ends Charles Johnson and Frank Alexander suffered similar injuries, and Rivera is hopeful for their return Thursday.

Make-A-Wish: The Panthers hosted 7-year-old Matthew McCaskill at practice Wednesday, and he was able to follow his favorite player, Kelvin Benjamin, around practice.

McCaskill has a heart condition and told the Make-A-Wish Foundation that his dream was to go to a Panthers practice.

“It means a lot for a kid to come here and say you’re his favorite player,” Benjamin said. “Me being from a small town in Florida, that means a lot to change somebody’s life like that. I had a great time out here with him. He’s a great kid.”

Observations

▪  Offensive lineman Tyronne Green will miss the rest of the season after suffering a torn Achilles in practice Tuesday. He will be assigned to injured reserve.

▪  The Panthers signed offensive guard Ricky Henry and waived center Ronald Patrick. Henry, a former undrafted free agent with the Bears in 2011, is with his fourth team.

▪  Tight end Greg Olsen and center Ryan Kalil took part in position drills but didn’t do as much in team drills. They’re healthy, and it was more giving veterans a rest than anything else.

▪  Defensive back Colin Jones had two near interceptions Wednesday. The first came on a pass from Derek Anderson and the second on a screen from Cam Newton to Jordan Todman.

▪  Todman, Ted Ginn Jr. and Damiere Byrd were back returning kickoffs. Ginn is the odds-on favorite to start.

▪  Rivera said receiver Stephen Hill has been “ascending” during camp. Hill caught a 1-yard touchdown on a back-shoulder throw from Anderson against Carrington Byndom in a two-minute drill.

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