SPARTANBURG - On Tuesday and Wednesday, the Panthers will host the Bills for joint practices to conclude training camp at Wofford.
And on Monday, head coach Ron Rivera made very clear what he expects.
"I don’t want any fighting. If anybody fights, I’ll pull them out, throw them out of practice and they’ll be disciplined," Rivera told the media. "That’s the bottom line. We’re not here to fight. We’re here to learn from each other and help each other win. That’s probably the most important thing that comes out of this. To me, a guy fights out of frustration because he’s getting beat and he’s getting stopped. I don’t want it. I want our guys to come out and play hard football and do things the right way and learn."
This season marks the third time that the Panthers will do joint practices with another team during Rivera's tenure. Prior to the 2015 season, Carolina hosted Miami at Wofford, and then the Panthers traveled to practice with Tennessee prior to the 2017 season. Carolina went to the playoffs in both of those seasons, including a run to Super Bowl 50 in 2015.
"When you go back, we’ve never really had any incidents (with joint practices)," Rivera said. "We did it with Miami a few years back and it worked out really well for us. We did it with the Tennessee Titans a couple years ago and that worked out very well. In both instances -- and I talked to Sean about this last night -- but the opposing head coach talked to the opposing team and told them ‘We’re not here to fight, we’re here to help each other get better.’"
Carolina is certainly familiar with this Buffalo squad. Head coach Sean McDermott was Carolina's defensive coordinator under Rivera from 2011-16, while Buffalo general manager Brandon Beane worked for Carolina from 1998-2017. The full list of player, coach and staff connections over the last several seasons have been so extensive as to rise to the level of internet meme-ry.
All of those connections give a little extra meaning to the mini-reunion in Spartanburg.
"It’ll be a great opportunity to see some old friends. It’s a place that helped me in so many ways with great people and a great organization," McDermott said on Monday. "Wofford is a neat campus. Very similar to St. John Fisher because of the pride that they take in what they do down there. That said, we’ve got work to do and that’s why we’re going down there. I’m excited to watch our team grow through this experience."
The Panthers and Bills have coordinated practice plans which will include group drills by position with one team's tight ends working against the others' linebackers and so forth. Then team periods will feature each team's offense and defense working against the other on separate fields. Both teams will be in full pads, but there won't be live tackling.
"Ultimately, this a good opportunity for both of our teams to help each other and get better," Rivera said. "The truth is, we don’t face each other this year and if we do, that means we’re in the Super Bowl."
View the top photos from Carolina's preseason opening victory at Buffalo by team photographer Melissa Melvin-Rodriguez.