Cam Newton is a big talker, and when he beats the defense, the defense is going to hear all about it. Same goes for cornerback Josh Norman the other way. According to coach Ron Rivera, the two have been “chirping” at each other since camp started. So what happened yesterday was no surprise.
On Sunday, Norman picked off a long pass from Newton and had some words for the quarterback. On Monday, camp started with an exhortation from Rivera to the defense to show more intensity. When Norman intercepted Newton again, he attempted to return the ball for a score. The whistle blew, but Norman kept going, and gave Newton a stiff-arm when the quarterback tried to bring him down.
The Charlotte Observer’s Tom Sorensen writes how he saw it go down:
After Norman reached the end zone I saw Newton, 6-5 and 245 pounds, put his hands on the helmet of Norman, 6-2, 215. Norman responded by thrusting his hands upward. This freed him from Newton and dislodged Newton’s helmet.
The offense was lined up on the side of the field nearest the altercation, and soon almost all the jerseys around Norman and Newton were black. Aided, perhaps, by the onlookers who rushed to break up the scuffle, Norman and Newton went to the ground.
Videos only captured the aftermath:
In the videos, you can hear Newton tell Norman, “Hit me like that again and you’ll know something.”
ESPN’s David Newton says the two continued to jaw later in practice, with Newton shouting “I bet you won’t do that again.” Newton also called Norman a “pissant,” which is a wildly underutilized insult.
There has been the predictable concern-trolling. ESPN’s Louis Riddick says Newton’s decision to fight “doesn’t show leadership,” and the Observer’s Scott Fowler writes that Newton is “fortunate that only your reputation got hurt.”
But Ron Rivera isn’t too upset.
“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. 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.”
It’s hot, and practices are long, and tempers are short. Offenses and defenses are natural enemies throughout the season, and camp is the one time they’re going directly up against each other every single day. Dudes are going to fight, and usually no one gets hurt. So let ‘em scuffle. For fans, it sure beats having to spend the month worrying about battles to be third-string on depth charts.