Tempers reached a boiling point at Carolina Panthers training camp Monday morning when franchise quarterback Cam Newton and top cornerback Josh Norman got into a scuffle that went to the ground during practice.
Newton and Norman had to be separated by nearly a dozen teammates around 10:30 a.m. Monday at Wofford College after Norman intercepted a Newton pass during team drills.
“Hit me like that again. I know something,” Newton shouted at Norman after being pulled away by running back Jonathan Stewart and fullback Mike Tolbert.
Tension had been brewing between Newton and Norman for more than a week as the two have battled in one-on-one and team drills since the Panthers arrived in Spartanburg.
Monday, coach Ron Rivera and defensive coordinator Sean McDermott had expressed their displeasure with a lack of energy and effort from the defense during drills.
It all culminated later in the fight.
“It’s really that time of year. Guys get into training camp and it’s usually (practice) nine or 10 and that’s kind of what happened,” Rivera said. “You really don’t expect it to be your quarterback. But the thing I try to take away from it, and you try to look for the positive in it, is hey he stood up for himself, the other guy stood up for himself. I know it’s the quarterback but we treat everybody the same.
“I wasn’t pleased about the fight. I wasn’t pleased about who was in the fight but again I understand it. Again, I think the thing that a lot of the guys took from it was he’s just like any of us. He’s willing to fight.”
Newton did not respond to two questions from Observer reporters as he walked off the field toward the locker room following practice.
In team drills, Newton looked to his right for a receiver but the offensive line didn’t hold up well under pressure. The pocket was collapsing on Newton and he fired a pass low, which Norman intercepted as he went to the ground.
Norman, as all defensive backs are taught to do, got up and ran toward the end zone at the urging of his teammates and coaches. McDermott was one of the loudest voices telling Norman to score a touchdown.
As Norman neared the end zone, Newton continued chase and was stiff-armed in the facemask by Norman. Newton then shoved Norman, who then pushed Newton and shoved his helmet off.
The two then went to the ground.
After they were separated, team captain Thomas Davis shouted how stupid the fight was.
Norman and Newton continued jawing back and forth even as Derek Anderson took over during team drills.
“I bet you won’t do it again,” Newton hollered back as he went to the sideline.
McDermott told the Observer after practice he wasn’t upset by the fight.
“We’d rather have that than guys out here just going through the motions, playing pattycake,” he said.
McDermott told the Observer that he told Cam after practice to keep challenging Norman.
His message? “That’s what we need. Iron sharpens iron.”
Staff writer Joseph Person contributed.