Fan injured as fights spoil another Panthers and Pats practice

Washington Commanders running back Jaret Patterson (32) carries the ball as Carolina Panthers safety Kenny Robinson (27) and defensive tackle Marquan McCall (78) try to stop him during the second half of an NFL preseason football game on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022, in Landover, Md. (Shaban Athuman/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP)

Washington Commanders running back Jaret Patterson (32) carries the ball as Carolina Panthers safety Kenny Robinson (27) and defensive tackle Marquan McCall (78) try to stop him during the second half of an NFL preseason football game on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022, in Landover, Md. (Shaban Athuman/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP)

PA

A day after a pair of fights resulted in the ejection of five players from the first joint practice between the Panthers and Patriots, two more incidents – including one in which a fan was punched after a melee spilled into the spectator area – almost brought an end to Wednesday’s training session.

“First, my thoughts are with the woman who was injured there. Hope she’s okay,” Panthers coach Matt Rhule said after practice. “I don’t have any updates on her, but I hope she is doing well.”

The first dust came during a kickoff return drill after Panthers safety Kenny Robinson – one of the players sent off in Tuesday’s fights – delivered a heavy blow to Patriots receiver Kristian Wilkerson and stood over him, taunting him. Several of Wilkerson’s teammates, including special teams captain Matt Slater, took issue with this and it led to brief scuffles.

Wilkerson remained on the ground as he was picked up by the coaching staff. He eventually made his way to a cart before being chased away. Slater said afterwards that Wilkerson was being evaluated “off site” due to his injuries.

“That’s cause for concern,” Slater said. “We’re not going to sit here and celebrate these kinds of games. We’re not going to do it that way. … Look, I’m not fighting. I have four children, my wife is here. What do I look like ? I am 36 years old. I don’t throw a punch.

“But when you have a teammate who is hit, he is down. There are clearly symptoms of what happened to him. We all know what they look like as football players. He demonstrates these symptoms and then you have players who celebrate these acts, I don’t agree with that.

Robinson was taken off the field by an assistant coach and training resumed.

For the moment.

A few minutes later, during an 11-on-11 period, Carolina running back Christian McCaffrey was hit hard near the sideline, got up and threw the ball in the direction of a Patriots player. This led to another melee which spilled out into the front row of a spectator area, hitting at least one female fan. It also resulted in ejections for New England defensive lineman Deatrich Wise Jr. and Carolina running back Chuba Hubbard.

“There is sometimes a bit of a chippy here. That’s how it goes,” McCaffrey said. “That’s how it is. A little scrum. It happens. The footy of footy. You go to these joint practices – that’s part of the game.”

NFL referees in attendance told Rhule that Hubbard threw a punch and they called for him to be returned.

Rhule said the two incidents marred an otherwise productive practice day.

“Obviously we sent Kenny off the field. I didn’t see the kick, but I saw him standing over the player. That’s not how we want to train,” Rhule said. “There are things happening in football. There were some good clean shots. But we don’t stand over someone to taunt them. This can affect their livelihoods. So we sent him back.

The teams meet in an exhibition game Friday night.

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Naomi C. Amerson