SPARTANBURG, S.C. – You knew it was coming. As Day 12 of training camp practice wore on, the chippiness steadily increased and eventually, frustrations boiled over.
"It was a very chippy practice," head coach Ron Rivera said. "We're getting to the point where we can't wait to play against somebody else."
After several minor altercations took place between receivers and defensive backs, the chippiness worked its way to the line of scrimmage during a team drill. Numerous players got involved in what Rivera called a "small melee" before quarterback Cam Newton, left tackle Jordan Gross and others worked to separate them.
"Everybody was fired up. We came out kind of feisty," Newton said. "In a sense, 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. When a fight breaks out, anything can happen."
When practice concluded, Rivera took time to address the scrum and the series of hits that led to it. He made his point loud and clear.
"It can't happen. I'm not going to have it. I want things done a certain way, and we are going to do it that way," Rivera said. "I told them, 'At the end of the day, we need the best 53. We need a healthy 53. We can't afford to have anybody that we really, truly need get caught up in something like this.' The message was really about becoming a team."
Rivera is obviously well aware that these things have a tendency to happen during the dog days of training camp. But Tuesday's events served as an opportunity to reinforce the ways in which he wants his team to practice.
"In these drills, the receivers aren't protected. Guys downfield aren't protected, and we just have to be smart about those things," Rivera said. "When we get a chance to hit somebody, we want to square them up, put them in a good position. We don't want to hit a guy from an angle where it's not a good position. What we don't want is guys getting turned and pulled and twisted. A little of that carries over, and then one thing leads to another. It happens. The bottom line is I have a set of rules, and I want everybody to follow the rules – that's just the way it is."
DAVIS FULL-GO: Linebacker Thomas Davis (hamstring) took part in team drills for the first time this camp on Tuesday, working at the strongside position with the first team.
"I enjoyed the day. Physically, I feel fine. Conditioning-wise, I feel a lot better than I expected to after being out a whole week-and-a-half," Davis said. "I stayed on top of everything and didn't make any mental mistakes today. That's a testament to being a pro – coming out here and doing what you're supposed to do when you're expected to do it."
Rivera added: "Thomas looked very good, very excited for Thomas. Getting him back on the football field – I think it brings a little excitement, a little bigger level of play for our team because of who he is."
Davis got his hands on the ball right at the start of team drills, but he dropped what would have been a pick-six and as result completed a few self-imposed push-ups.
"Off the bat he had a chance for an interception, he dropped it, and we attested that to rusty hands," Rivera said.
HEALTH UPDATE: Running back DeAngelo Williams and wide receiver Ted Ginn were given veteran days off Tuesday. Fullback Mike Tolbert (hamstring) missed his second consecutive practice, while left guard Amini Silatolu (groin) returned to practice after missing two straight. Wide receiver Domenik Hixon and cornerback Josh Thomas once again missed practice with leg injuries.