The Cowboys and Rams got in one and a half days of good work before a nasty and out-of-control melee ended the two days of joint practices early.
The brawl included punches, players swinging helmets and getting slammed to the ground. Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant, who was being held out of practice because of a tight hamstring, came on the field without a helmet and took a direct punch in the face from Rams fullback Imoan Claiborne.
Rams coach Jeff Fisher was left disappointed with the outcome, while Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones wondered if the league can do something to curb the fighting in joint practices.
“One day and three quarters we had really good work and then unfortunately things got out of hand and we shut it down,” Fisher said. “There is no excuse for it. Fortunately nobody got hurt. It’s unfortunate. There is no place for it from the standpoint and being role models in this game and representing this game for kids. There is no place. That’s not how this game goes. We are sorry about that.”
Said Jones: “Well I hate it. At the end of the day we know why it happens. You’ve got grown men out here who are really fighting hard to make a football team. The energy levels are high. Those things happen. You don’t want them. I know Jeff nor [Cowboys coach Jason Garrett] is pleased with it, the fact it comes to that. It’s certainly nothing we’re proud, and I know our players aren’t proud of it.”
The brawl with the Rams comes one year after the Cowboys had a similar melee in a joint practice with the Oakland Raiders. It’s actually something that has occurred in joint practices across the league.
Jones said the NFL has done a good job addressing fighting in games. The question is how can they penalize players for fighting in practices.
“We’re trying as a league,” Jones said. “We put an emphasis on it at the league meetings. If that were to happen in a game, it would not be good news for either team. There will be a lot of people sitting down and a lot of fines and that type of thing. I can’t imagine that we can’t continue to have joint practices and get this right just like we do a lot of things. But we’re going to have to continue to emphasis that stuff is not what we want. It should not be a part of our game. It’s not good for either team.”
The initial brawl started after a reverse play run by the Rams. Cowboys linebacker Andrew Gachkar shoved Rams center Demetrius Rhaney over. After that, all heck broke loose.
Among the incidents in the first scrum: Cowboys safety Jeff Heath tackled Rams running back Tre Mason to the ground; Rams wide receiver Chris Givens leaped into a pile and appeared to take off Cowboys defensive end Randy Gregory’s helmet; and Cowboys cornerback Tyler Patmon began throwing wild haymakers with other Rams receivers away from the original scuffle.
“I’m sticking up for my teammates,” Patmon said. “I’m not sure how it all got started.”
Added Mason: “We were being competitive. It’s football. It’s a competitive sport, it’s a physical, collision sport. Sometimes the energy gets in there.”
The second fight broke out on the ensuing play. Rams tackle Isaiah Battle ran over Gregory, which ignited another melee that went all the way to the fence where the fans stand. Then players from both fields got involved and that’s when Bryant got punched before it was finally calmed down.
Both coaches gathered their ive teams on the two fields for a discussion. The Cowboys wanted to continue to practice but Fisher had seen enough.
“Well, I had it under control and Tony wanted to go do a 2-minute drive,” Fisher said. “But I didn’t want to let it go anymore. Once the emotions started, once the emotions got going I didn’t trust that. We got enough good work in. Guys swinging with helmets makes no sense. The only thing that is going to happen is you are going to hurt yourself.
“I would be the first one to say I would love to come back and practice against the Cowboys again because they are a talented team and first-class organization.”
Clarence E. Hill Jr.