On one of the hottest and most competitive days of this year’s training camp, tempers boiled over for what was the biggest blowup of camp so far.
There was no fighting, but Panthers coach Ron Rivera and several teammates had to calm cornerback Bené Benwikere down after he took exception to chip blocks by tight ends in team period. That extended into some trash talk, and Benwikere had to be led to the sideline by running back Jonathan Stewart and linebacker Thomas Davis.
“It boiled over more than I really want,” Rivera said after practice. “The thing that we all have to understand is that at the end of the day, the Panthers don’t play the Panthers. We’re not on our own schedule. I think that’s the thing that we lost sight of today. The competitive nature got carried away.
“It got a little more physical than it should have been. The thing that we’ve got to understand is we are in pads but that doesn’t give us liberty to do some of the things that happened out there.”
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The Panthers had been in shells on Saturday, the first day back at camp since Tuesday and the first practice after Thursday’s exhibition in Baltimore. Rivera went to a padded practice Sunday morning, and that led to one of the liveliest practices of camp.
Quarterback Cam Newton and Davis continued their trash talk throughout the day. It started when Luke Kuechly picked off Newton on the first play of 7-on-7 drills. And it continued shortly after when Newton connected with Devin Funchess for a deep touchdown.
As the Panthers transitioned to team period, some members of the defense complained about the tight ends chip-blocking. Members of the offense disagreed, and it should be noted that the offense and defense were sharing the same sideline during this period.
Benwikere was in on the second-team defense playing nickel corner in the 2-minute drill when he gave up a touchdown pass to Damiere Byrd from Derek Anderson. He boiled over after that play.
“It had nothing to do with (the trash talk). It made more to do with a couple of shots that were given and taken out on the field,” Rivera said. “As I said, we have to understand, especially in certain situations how to play with pads on, how to practice with pads on. That’s really what happened. We had a couple of guys take a couple of shots and a couple guys took exception to it more than anything else.
“This was really the result of overenthusiastic play which, at this point in time in training camp, we really don’t need unless I make it a live drill.”
Rivera had to call Benwikere over to him several times before he listened. Davis and Stewart had Benwikere by the collar of his jersey trying to get him to calm down.
Newton walked quietly in front of Benwikere watching the goings-on.
From that point, the trash talk ceased. The Panthers continued team period and eventually ended practice around 11:30 a.m.
Rivera huddled the team after practice and had each member take a knee as he delivered his message.
“The biggest thing we have to do more so than anything else is understand how to practice,” Rivera said, “and at the same time, when we try to defend one another, we have to be careful and let the coaches do it and let me handle it.”
Staff writer Joseph Person contributed.