Carolina Panthers’ Matt Rhule on Fights with New England Patriots: ‘That’s Not How We Want to Practice’

by Bryan Fyalkowski

Things have gotten pretty heated around the NFL recently during joint training camp practices. But no teams are at odds more than the Carolina Panthers and New England Patriots.

They scuffled on Tuesday, and then twice more on Wednesday. In the final one, an onlooking fan suffered minor injuries when players accidentally spilled into the spectators. For her troubles, she received tickets to an upcoming game.

When asked about the fights, Panthers head coach Matt Rhule shared his displeasure with the mix-ups.

“No. 1: My thoughts are with the woman that was hurt over there, hoping that she’s OK,” he said, via “The decision of one or two guys impacts a lot of different people. It’s just unfortunate that [after] a day of so much good football, I know a lot of it will be about what happened.”

Tuesday’s first skirmish began when Carolina’s defensive backs were extra physical with New England wide receiver Kristian Wilkerson after the whistle. Wilkerson got up and challenged them, leading to teammate Kendrick Bourne backing him up and a fight taking place.

Rhule kicked out safety Kenny Robinson from practice, while Patriots head coach Bill Belichick ejected both Bourne and Wilkerson.

In another brush-up later that day, linemen from both sides were sent to the locker room early.

“I’d love to be talking about two-minute drills right now and Sam [Darnold] scrambling and making an excellent throw,” Rhule said. “There’s a lot of football things that matter way more to me, but distractions affect you and that’s what we can’t do.”

Fights Continue Between Carolina Panthers, New England Patriots

Wilkerson was involved again on Wednesday, again on the wrong side of a hit from Robinson. During a “thud” drill, Robinson flattened Wilkerson and stood over him in a taunting fashion. Wilkerson was evaluated for a concussion after the hit. He has since been released from the hospital, but is resting away from practice for the time being.

Again, Rhule was not happy with his defensive back specifically.

“I didn’t really see the hit, but I did see him standing over the player. That’s not how we want to practice,” he explained. “Things happen in football, there were some good, clean hits. But we don’t stand over somebody and taunt them. It can affect their livelihood, so we sent him off.”

In part because of his involvement to disrupt practices, Robinson – who was a fifth-round draft pick in 2020 – is firmly in trouble of losing his roster spot.

These dust-ups actually make Friday night’s preseason game between the Carolina Panthers and New England Patriots somewhat intriguing. Kickoff between the two feisty franchises is at 8 p.m. CT.