Later, safety Mike Mitchell clocked wideout Brandon LaFell in what appeared to be a late hit on a route over the middle. An unhappy LaFell followed Mitchell to the defensive huddle and the two exchanged a few shoves and choice words. Defensive players took offense to LaFell's actions, ordering him to return to the offensive side of the ball.
The chippiness continued to escalate and spread as if it were a contagious disease. LaFell and second-year cornerback, Josh Norman, began pushing and shoving on the sideline while defensive end Greg Hardy and tackle Byron Bell became tangled up in the middle of the field.
Punches were eventually thrown – and offensive and defensive players rushed to the aid of their respective counterparts.
Of course, it wouldn't be a brawl at Panthers training camp if fiery wideout Steve Smith wasn't involved. The small yet intimidating veteran, at 5-foot-9, 185 pounds, dragged the 6-foot-4, 290-pound Hardy to the ground.
More than a dozen players became involved in the skirmish, which was ultimately broken up by quarterback Cam Newton, among others. Following the tussle, third-year head coach Ron Rivera sent the players to separate corners and put in substitutions.
While a little chippiness isn't always a bad thing, Rivera emphasized to reporters the importance of becoming a team, and set a zero-tolerance policy for such behavior in the future.
“More so than about anything else it was about getting them to understand it’s about team,” Rivera told the media after practice. “We’re trying to become a team. And what we can’t have is we can’t have chippiness, we can’t have the late shots for anything like that toward a teammate. The concern is it escalates and it festers and it lingers and the next time you go out on the football field somebody’s taking a shot."
“And we can’t have it. I’m not going to have it. I have a set of rules. I want things done a certain way and we’re going to do it that way and if you’re not going to comply we’re going to sit you out of practice and you won’t be part of the team.”
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