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Tempers erupt during most heated practice of Panthers' training camp

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Players' tempers flared as the competition ramps up for roster spots (WTVD)

You sensed something was coming Sunday.

The temperature was soaring and tempers were flaring as the Carolina Panthers worked through a two-minute drill in practice. Defenders were complaining that the tight ends were illegally chip blocking, and quarterback Cam Newton was mocking their complaints.

"You can't do that! You can't do that!" Newton said in a sarcastic tone as he walked along the sideline while backup Derek Anderson engineered a drive.



Then it happened.

Anderson connected with Damiere Byrd in the end zone for a touchdown. Byrd spiked the ball -- as he later said, "My little way of getting in on the action."

Nickelback Bene' Benwikere, battling back from a fractured ankle suffered in December, wasn't done. Still unhappy with the way he was getting blocked, he loudly voiced his displeasure.

Running back Jonathan Stewart and linebacker Thomas Davis pulled Benwikere off to the side as coach Ron Rivera yelled for the third-year defensive back to "come here."

When Benwikere remained agitated, Davis grabbed him by the shoulder pads and shouted, "Listen to me!"


There was no fight, but it was way more than Rivera wanted to see. He let his players know that with a post-practice speech that lasted more than five minutes -- longer than any he's given in training camp.

"It boiled over more than you really want," Rivera said. "The thing 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, and that's the thing we lost sight of today.

"The competitive nature got carried away, got more physical than it should have been. The thing we've got to understand is we're in pads, but it doesn't give us the liberty to do some of the things that happen like that."

Rivera gave players a similar speech last season when cornerback Josh Norman and Newton got into a scuffle. The coach wanted to stress that maintaining composure in practice is just as important as it is in a game.

"This was really the result of overenthusiastic play, which at this time in training camp we really don't need," Rivera said.

Rivera initially wanted to talk to Benwikere immediately after the incident, but he let Davis handle the situation because the team captain asked to. One of the strengths of the Panthers during last season's Super Bowl run was the leadership players like Davis showed in dealing with such issues.

Rivera talked to Benwikere after practice.

"The big thing that we have to understand is how to practice, and at the same time when we defend one another we have to be careful," Rivera said.

Rivera made it clear the Benwikere situation had nothing to do with the trash talking that happened earlier in practice between Newton and Davis after outside linebacker Luke Kuechly picked off the reigning NFL MVP.

Newton said one of his goals coming into camp was to not be intercepted by Kuechly or Davis. Davis let Newton hear it after the pick, shouting, "We got him! We got him!" as he followed Kuechly to the end zone.

One play later, Newton completed a touchdown pass to second-year wide receiver Devin Funchess over the middle. Funchess responded by shouting, "We got him! We got him!"

"That had more to do with a couple of shots that were given and taken on the field," Rivera said. "We had a couple of guys took shots, and a couple of guys took exception to it."

Rivera isn't rethinking his plan to practice with pads on Monday because of what happened Sunday.

"Oh, heck no. Are you kidding! Wear them out," he said jokingly. "Freaking make everything live. We'll stick to the schedule. Tomorrow is planned padded practice."

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