Whatever Ron Rivera and Joe Philbin said before the Panthers' joint practice Wednesday with the Dolphins, it must have worked.
For the most part, anyway.
The head coaches addressed players about getting their work in without getting into fights during the two-hour practice, which featured one skirmish between linemen but did not include any of the wild melees that have marred other joint practices across the league.
Panthers left tackle Michael Oher and defensive end Olivier Vernon swung at each other after they squared off in a 1-on-1 drill.
Vernon stood over Oher for a couple of seconds after the whistle blew. Oher made contact with him when he got off the ground, and Vernon hit Oher's facemask with his left hand.
Oher missed with his punch, and both players wound up on the ground as linemen from both teams converged of them. Order was restored quickly, and there were no other dust-ups the rest of the day.
Oher declined comment through a team spokesman. But Rivera said he was pleased with the tempo and tone at the Panthers' first joint practice session in 15 years.
"Coach Philbin and I talked about this and tried to stress to our guys, we’re here to work. We’re not here to fight. ... We both tried to make sure our players understood that," Rivera said. "If Coach Philbin said anything to our guys it was as if I were talking. And if I said anything to the Dolphin guys it’s as if he were talking. I really appreciated that approach. I think that helps."
Philbin was equally complimentary of Rivera and the Panthers organization.
"I said to the Carolina Panthers today, ‘We love the way you guys play football, you’ve got a tough, hard, physical defense. We like to play the game the same way and we came down here to compete and get better as a team, not to have barroom brawls,'" Philbin said. "I don’t see it being an issue."
Panthers wideout Ted Ginn, who played his first three seasons in Miami, called Wednesday "a great day" for both teams.
"We went out, we practiced hard, we played hard. You get a different feel for different situations when you're out there," Ginn said. "I think it's a blessing in disguise, minus the fights and the arguments. And I believe their coaches and our coaches put a great practice together where it was nice and long, and there was no confrontation."
The two teams will practice again Thursday – the Panthers' final day of training camp – before playing an exhibition game Saturday in Charlotte.
Newton sharper, but passes batted down
Cam Newton looked sharper in drills Wednesday than he did on Tuesday, but he was stymied on consecutive plays with similar mistakes.
On the first play of the second session of team drills, Newton threw a pass that was batted down along the right side of the line. On the next play, Newton’s pass to Jonathan Stewart was batted at the line and intercepted by defensive end Cameron Wake, who would have been off to the races with Newton to try and score.
“Cam had the right read because it was (the hot route) and he went to throw it over Wake, but Wake has about a 48-inch vertical and just made a great play,” Rivera said of the second tipped pass. “It’s one of those things Cam’s got to know to get it to the side or get it over the top of him. He made the right read. It was the hot and if we make the throw it’s a first down, but you got a guy like Wake up there making plays.”
But it wasn’t just Wake making plays on that side of the line. Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh created chaos along the interior of the line as he lined up mostly against right guard Trai Turner.
“I’ll tell you what, he’s something else now. When he really…I mean, there are certain things they do to give him chances and he can make things happen,” Rivera said. “He is a special player and I can see why Miami wanted to bring him (in).”
▪ The big hit of the day came when tight end Scott Simonson went to the ground thanks to Dolphins safety Louis Delmas. Newton found Simonson for a completion, but as he turned he was met by Delmas, whose clean hit sent Simonson to the ground and the ball in the air. Linebacker Chris McCain intercepted the pass.
▪ That was the highlight of a very bad day for Delmas, who tore his ACL for the second time in 10 months later in the day. It was the second non-contact knee injury of the day, but Miami coach Joe Philbin said the field wasn’t to blame. He called Wofford’s facilities “great.”
▪ Receiver Jarrett Boykin had several nice catches, most of them coming from Derek Anderson. His one misstep came when he was called for a pushoff in one-on-ones with Miami cornerback Cedric Thompson.
▪ Dolphins QBs Ryan Tannehill and Matt Moore, the former Panther, each completed their first several passes against Carolina's first-team defense in a team passing drill. The streak ended on a drop by a Miami running back, followed by a pass breakup by cornerback T.J. Heath.
▪ Corner Josh Norman had a nice break and hit on tight end Jordan Cameron, who held on while going to the ground. Norman, who helped Cameron to his feet, said he wasn't trying to do anything "malicious."
▪ Fullback Mike Tolbert was wearing a protective brace on his left thumb after the practice, but indicated it was not broken.
▪ Tight end Marcus Lucas made perhaps his best catch of the day on a pass from Anderson that resulted in a touchdown against linebacker Specer Paysinger.
▪ Rivera plans to do more situational football in Thursday’s practice. That means the Panthers and Dolphins will participate in goal-line, red zone and short yardage drills that could really bring the intensity.
Getting to know ...
LB Kevin Reddick
College: North Carolina.
NFL experience: Second year.
The scoop: Reddick hasn’t seen much time on the field at linebacker other than with the second team as he’s been buried behind a number of good linebackers. He forced a fumble in the playoff game against Arizona that led to a touchdown, and he needs more standout plays in special teams to earn a spot on this team. Exhibitions against Miami and New England will decide his fate with Carolina.
Twitter handle: @kev_red52
Recent tweet: A man who has nothing to say in critical moments is a WEAK man... Think on it. I'm being a sponge right now taking it all in
3 questions with ...
WR Ted Ginn
Q. What was it like practicing against your old Dolphins team?
A. Bittersweet. You go out and practice and it was the first time doing it in my career. And I enjoyed it. It was fun. You get to go against somebody else, work your craft. See different DBs and just see what you can do.
Q. Are there many guys left you played with?
A. More staff. Cameron Wake was there. That's about it. It was nine years (ago). It was great seeing the staff, equipment guys, trainers who worked on your body and helped you out. It was great to see the fans still recognize you for what you did in Miami, as well as our Carolina Panthers fans for what you did here.
Q. What did you take away from this camp?
A. I worked at my craft and I gained the respect of the fans back, my teammates, coaches, that I can still play this game, minus what happened last year. I can still come out and be a threat, be a guy, and just get the respect from everybody. That was the best thing I did this camp.
Three to watch
Three Carolina Panthers to watch in Thursday’s practice in Spartanburg:
73 Fans should keep an eye on OT Michael Oher in case there’s any carryover from his fight with Olivier Vernon.
88 With Kelvin Benjamin out and Devin Funchess bothered by a hamstring issue, TE Greg Olsen figures to become the focal point of the passing offense.
90 Banished to the third team, DE Frank Alexander can start climbing his way back up the depth chart with a strong showing.