Rivera blasts players following ‘chippy’ practice

Panthers coach Ron Rivera doesn’t yell much, so when he does it
certainly grabs everyone’s attention.

Such was the case on Tuesday when the mild-mannered Rivera
ripped into players at midfield after what he called a ”chippy”
practice that included plenty of pushing and shoving, a few late
hits and one ”melee” involving more than a dozen players.

With his fists waving up and down, an angry Rivera warned
players about the dangers of losing their cool in practice.

”We can’t have chippiness or late shots toward a teammate,”
Rivera said afterward. ”The concern obviously is it escalates and
it festers and it lingers and the next time we go out on the
football field somebody is taking a shot… We can’t afford to
afford to have anybody that we truly need get caught up in
this.”

There were several confrontations during the morning practice,
the biggest involving a heated altercation between the offense and
defense involving more than a dozen players by the time quarterback
Cam Newton and others pulled players from the scrum.

It appeared to start after offensive tackle Byron Bell and
defensive end Greg Hardy got into it during a running play.

Newton said there was a noticeable feistiness in the air
Tuesday, perhaps a reflection of the dreary, overcast sky at the
morning practice.

”You have to look at it like a double-edged sword – on one hand
you have to like the fire in the guys but at the same time you have
to be respectful of guys’ careers,” Newton said. ”When a fight
breaks out anything can happen. For something that can be just for
kicks and giggles, somebody can get a sprained ankle or hurt. So
that was coach Rivera doing his fatherly due diligence trying to
protect his players and express to us to play smarter.”

There was plenty of lead up to that brouhaha.

Earlier, tight end Greg Olsen took exception to a perceived late
hit near the sideline from safety D.J. Campbell and retaliated by
chucking the ball at Campbell.

Defensive backs Josh Norman and Mike Mitchell were involved in a
war or words all day with receiver Brandon LaFell that also
heightened the tension at practice.

”It’s disappointing that it lingered and it lasted as long as
it did,” Rivera said. ”I’m not going to say it was good, but it
was good to see the guys have a little attitude about things. But
we do certainly most want to save those for (the preseason games)
and we don’t want to do it against teammates.”

Rivera warned players if they can’t abide by his rules they’ll
sit out.

What concerned Rivera the most is some receivers were hit
downfield while in vulnerable positions.

”We have to be smart about those things,” Rivera said. ”When
we get a chance to hit somebody we need to square them up and put
them in a good position. We don’t want to hit a guy where it’s an
angle and it’s not a good position.

The Panthers open the preseason Friday night against the Chicago
Bears.

”We are at the point where we need to play against somebody
else,” Rivera said.

NOTES: Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis participated in team
drills for the first time this summer. He’s been limited in
practice while battling a hamstring issue. … Running backs
Jonathan Stewart (ankle) and linebacker Jon Beason (knee) remain
out of practice for the Panthers.

Online: AP NFL website www.pro32.ap.org

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