Originally created 08/07/02

Morning practice ends early after altercation



SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- Carolina Panthers head coach John Fox ended Tuesday morning's practice early after an altercation involving three players erupted during a drill.

Fox grew agitated when second-year offensive lineman T.J. Washington got into a scuffle with veteran defensive linemen Mike Rucker and Brentson Buckner about 30 minutes before practice was to end.

After players broke up the scuffle, an angry Fox called his players into a huddle, chewed them out and dismissed them until the afternoon session. It was his first public lecturing of his players in front of the fans and media since taking over as coach.

"Sometimes, you can talk to people, but sometimes you've got to put the hammer down," Fox said. "Whether it's my football team or my kids, we all deal with it. It's part of the growing process.

"Some times you let it go, but I had just had enough," Fox said.

The scuffle began after Washington, a reserve, pushed Rucker to the ground during a non-padded practice drill.

Rucker got up and loudly warned Washington not to do it again. Buckner then pushed Washington, who turned and walked toward Buckner with his chest thrust outward. Buckner hit Washington a few times before their teammates stepped in to break things up.

After breaking free of the restraints, an infuriated Washington tried in vain to run around a huddle of players and get back at Buckner.

After practice, Washington said he was in the wrong.

"After a while you get tired of banging one each other, and little things happen that normally wouldn't happen," Washington said. "We're like brothers. After a while you'd fight your brother once in a while. Everybody does it. But you come in the next day, you forget about it and go on."

Buckner and Rucker were unavailable for comment.

Until Tuesday, Fox had raved about his team's hard work during camp. But he added that it's not unusual for players to endure a letdown during the hot days of summer.

Fox wouldn't immediately say if he planned on handing out fines.

"You take a guy off the field, that's about as big a punishment as it gets," Fox said. "These guys get paid a lot of money, but they have a lot of pride in what they do. Their ultimate reason they do all of this is to play on the field. We'll get into their pocket too if need be."