New England Patriots, Carolina Panthers Joint Practice Featured Multiple Fights, Ejections

by Patrick Norton

Joint practices throughout NFL training camp often occur a handful of times each year before kicking off the regular season. Before teams get into a rhythm of game-scripting opponents, and typically before big roster cut downs, hosting another club for a couple of days leading into the week’s matchup has become commonplace.

The practices provide a refreshing opportunity to line up against an unfamiliar face. Joint sessions also breed intensity, building tension from the foreign nature of practicing against the enemy. And while the New England Patriots and Carolina Panthers won’t match up when the games count, the two squads shared each other’s company in Foxborough on Tuesday.

However, the Panthers hardly received an inviting welcome. Instead, chaos reigned supreme almost immediately following the kickoff of the morning’s practice. Throughout the day, two fights broke out with a total of five players receiving ejections from the heated rehearsal.

The first and larger dust-up occurred following a completed pass from Patriots quarterback Mac Jones to wide receiver Kristian Wilkerson. While Carolina’s defensive backs played through and after the whistle, Wilkerson took exception to the unwarranted intensity.

As Wilkerson turned to address the situation, the receiver received a jolting push from an opposing assistant coach. Quickly of out control, Patriots receiver Kendrick Bourne joined the scuffle. Wilkerson and Bourne received immediate ejections from head coach Bill Belichick. Only Panthers safety Kenny Robinson received the boot from head coach Matt Rhule.

After the practice, Rhule said, “We came here not to fight. We came here to practice.” However, Carolina’s intentions proved unsuccessful. “It shows maturity in a lot of other guys that it didn’t escalate into a big thing,” said the coach.

New England Patriots, Carolina Panthers in Completely Different Situations Heading Into 2022

For the Patriots, the team has a certain direction toward success in 2022. With Mac Jones prominently filling the role as a steadfast replacement for Tom Brady, the team’s mentality can shift from figuring things out to competing for the AFC East title.

While the competition level of the division has grown with the rise of the Buffalo Bills, New England still possesses the mind of Bill Belichick. With the coaching advantage, Mac Jones’ instant stability catapults the Patriots back into the conversation.

After leading the team to the playoffs, Belichick spoke on Jones’ progression through this season’s training camp. The coach said, “He did a great job last year, but he’s starting from a much, much higher point this year from where he started last year. His offseason work has been significant, and I think everyone recognizes how well he prepares and how much further along he was than a year ago.”

Meanwhile, the Carolina Panthers still don’t know who starts Week 1 under center. After acquiring Baker Mayfield from the Cleveland Browns, Matt Rhule is exhausting all options before a critical year in his coaching career. On the hot seat entering the season, it’s likely we see Mayfield and Sam Darnold in the mix throughout the season as Rhule attempts to preserve his employment.