-- Everyone has a go-to-move during training camp fights.
Maybe it's a slap to the side of the helmet. Or a tug of the facemask. Or even a quick, efficient jab. Yeah, some guys throw punches. Fake haymakers. But those are a waste of time in August. And roundhouse kicks aren't going to fly either.
My move? I was a face mask guy. Grab it quickly, and pull that thing down hard. Then use the off-arm to secure the body. Lock that dude up. Now you are in control. Now you are leading the dance until the rest of the guys jump in. Offense versus defense. Everyone meet up in the middle of the field. Pushing. Shoving. Words. A few weak punches might be thrown too. Nothing gets guys going in August like a good scuffle.?
Then, suddenly, it's over. Coaches bark, players separate, and practice resumes. Back to the drill. Back to the huddle. Line up again.
But that simple fight -- or scrum -- serves a purpose in practices all over the NFL. It's a necessary change of pace in the otherwise monotonous slog of training camp. Heck, sometimes these are even scripted or planned before the day starts. Whatever the case, the intensity level of that practice session changes a bit after the scuffle. The team gets a quick jolt of energy. The speed on the field increases. In some ways, that little "fight" can be looked at as a positive.?
I remember a pretty good scrum during the first couple days of camp back in Washington under Steve Spurrier. It's was early too, maybe the second day of pads. During a 7-on-7 drill, a running back got laid out on a checkdown route. His response? Whip a ball at the head of linebacker Jessie Armstead. Nope. Can't do it. We all jumped in and took care of that situation.
Players feed off that kind of stuff in August. I know I did. No one got banged up there. And once Spurrier cleared the thing out, we went back to work. It was almost routine. Come together and shove each other for a minute, and then shut it down. Get the next play call, and start rolling.
Sure, there are NFL coaches who won't put up with this stuff. Bill Belichick is one of them. Throw a punch, and you're gone. See ya. That happened twice last week in the New England Patriots' joint practices with the Chicago Bears. Malcolm Butler and Bryan Stork. Belichick tossed them both.?
Other coaches? Many of them won't sweat a fight on the practice field in camp. You might get chewed out after the fight in front of the team, but you'll still get an "atta boy" from your position coach coach when the headman isn't looking.
Why do fights start? A lot of reasons. A chop block. A low tackle at the knees. Playing through the whistle. Heck, maybe you lit up an offensive player with a big hit. Do that, and someone is going to come after you. The lick I laid on Trung Canidate during Redskins camp in 2003 (video below) didn't immediately start a fight, but it changed the dynamic of practice, and a scuffle broke out later that day.?
One-on-one drills are also prime grounds for fights. Just this past weekend, Seahawks DE Michael Bennett got booted from practice for fighting O-lineman Bradley Sowell after Sowell had taken a few shots at Bennett's position-mate Josh Shirley in one-on-one drills.
That's pro football in August.
Remember: These guys have been competing since July, and you get tired of beating on your own teammates day after day.
And these joint practices? What do coaches think is going to happen when two teams get together in August? Come on, man. Players are fighting for jobs right now.
Yeah, these joint sessions are great if we are talking about the level of competition. It's going to rise. It's another chance for coaches and GMs to evaluate the roster in a controlled setting. Those are very good reps to get on tape.
But the fights at these things should almost be expected at this point of camp. It's hot. It's humid. Guys want to get out of camp. They are tired. They want to go home. They aren't used to practicing against another team. Hey, everyone has a breaking point, right? All it takes is a quick shove, and everyone starts pouring onto the field. It's a battle royale, WWE-style.
Plus, you are going to support your teammates. You don't stand there and watch some dude wrestle your buddy to the ground. Get in there, guy. Mix it up. Then get back to the routine of practice.
The majority of these fights, in reality, are pretty lame. And you don't want to see pro ball players swinging on each other every day in August. That's not going to build a winner. But camps are ultra competitive, and stuff happens. A mini-fight? That's part of the deal.
ESPN.com NFL analyst Matt Bowen played seven seasons as a defensive back in the NFL.