Despite the safety precautions and rules against physical aggression, the NFL remains to be a violent sport.
No wonder one hit can end a season or a career for any player.
With the stakes always at a contentious high, tensions will always boil over.
There’s a war to be won on every snap and these combatants will do anything to win.
That’s why confrontations are a common occurrence even in practice.
Case in point: the latest practice between the Los Angeles Rams and Las Vegas Raiders.
Both sides had to cancel the joint practice because of numerous fights which were instigated by the players’ verbal jabs.
The head coaches of both teams, Jon Gruden and Sean McVay, condemned what they think are unnecessary scuffles.
McVay said that the outcome was disappointing while Gruden called it “child’s play”.
#Raiders coach Jon Gruden said the fight to end practice was "sickening…it was two guys in a special teams period and then it was a lot of trash talking that escalated…just stupidity. I'm done with that. Its just child's play." pic.twitter.com/EQwqLT1GhK
— Paul Gutierrez (@PGutierrezESPN) August 19, 2021
The bad blood between the squads was so intense that Gruden directed his players to ride their buses at once.
But getting the perspective of the players, three-time Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald pointed out that fights happen all the time, even within a team-only session.
Of course, the tension heightens during a joint practice.
It’s easy to put a finger on why these melees happen even during an inconsequential preseason practice.
The Struggle For A Roster Spot
It’s difficult to crack an NFL roster, even for those who are slated as starters in their positions.
The team will invite more than 90 people to training camp in hopes of making it to the opening day roster.
That number will shrink to 85 and so on until the 53-man active roster is finalized.
Those who are not part of that magic number are often relegated to the practice squad wherein they earn a small percentage of what the regular players earn.
That struggle happens every year and each player invited to camp will devote their energy, sweat, tears, or even blood just to make it to the team.
With everyone ready to claw their way to outmuscle or outplay others, excess physical or verbal actions are bound to happen.
Add to that the uncomfortable feeling of being in pads under the intense heat of the sun and you’ll understand why the players are ticked off.
They will not give anyone an advantage because that can be the end of their hopes and dreams to play in the NFL.
#Raiders vs Rams joint practices reminds me of Hard Knocks.
I want to see more fights just for Old man Incognito & Whitworth. pic.twitter.com/wkwopTwkpE
— 🏴☠️𝐑𝐲𝐚𝐧 🏴 (@Raider_Ryan1) August 18, 2021
No matter where you look at it, NFL players are ultra-competitive individuals because that’s how they were raised.
It won’t be surprising to see them be serious during “friendly” games.
If that’s their approach during side competitions, what more could happen during tune-ups against another team?
That said, it takes so little to start a fight during NFL joint practices.
Teams can bestow fines on whoever started them, but it will never prevent tension from happening.
An inadvertent elbow or an illegal tackle can cause the two sides to start pushing or throwing blows.
Such is the spirit of football, then, now, and forever.
Win or lose, ride or die, fight or bow down.