Matthew Slater calls out Panthers for instigating Wednesday practice fights


Patriots special teams ace Matthew Slater isn't trying to throw blows on the football field, especially not at this point in his career.

"I got four kids. My wife's here. What do I look like? I'm 36 years old, I'm not throwing no punches," Slater semi-joked after Wednesday's joint practice with the Panthers, which saw two more fights between the teams.

But the veteran Patriots captain didn't mince words when it came to the play that touched off the first of the squads' unfriendly huddles.

During a kickoff drill that Panthers coach Matt Rhule said was supposed to be "thud only" rather than fully live contact, Panthers cornerback Kenny Robinson laid a huge hit on Patriots receiver Kristian Wilkerson, who appeared to have been knocked unconscious on the play and may have been showing symptoms of a concussion according to Slater.

Robinson, who got ejected from Tuesday's practice for fighting Wilkerson (who was also tossed), stood over the fallen Patriot.

The hit itself, Slater said, was a clean block that he didn't take issue with. But Robinson's actions after the play drew the ire of Slater and Wilkerson's other teammates.

"When you have a teammate who is hit, who's down, there's clear symptoms of what's happened to him -- we all know what they look like as football players -- he's demonstrating those symptoms, and then you have players celebrating that act, I take an issue with that. And I don't have a problem saying that.

I don't care if it's in a game situation or certainly in a practice situation. That's not okay."

Rhule chastised Robinson in the coach's post-practice presser and said he sent Robinson from practice after the taunt against Wilkerson.

While Wilkerson was still down at the far end of the field, the Panthers offense and Patriots defense touched off a massive brawl in front of the bleachers where fans sat after a borderline out-of-bounds hit by Deatrich Wise Jr. on Christian McCaffrey.

After that extended melee, in which Wise and Chuba Hubbard were sent off for throwing punches (but McCaffrey was allowed to remain after throwing a football at Wise), the teams huddled separately. No other fights happened for the remainder of practice.

Slater told reporters Wilkerson is being evaluated off-site, which makes it sound like he'll likely be out for Friday's preseason game.