So much for Jason Garrett’s call for no fighting with the Rams.
Or, perhaps the Cowboys are just taking their coach’s “Finish The Fight!” T-shirts a little too literal.
Make it two years in-a-row the Cowboys have invited a team to practice with them in Oxnard during training camp, and two years in-a-row that a massive fight broke out that wound up spilling into the brink of wildly entertained fans.
Tuesday it was Cowboys vs. Rams, with trash-talking between Dez Bryant and Rams’ cornerback Trumaine Johnson lighting the fuse that eventually exploded into a full-field brawl.
Both Garrett and Rams’ coach Jeff Fisher criticized their teams’ lack of intensity in the Monday joint practice, so ... be careful what you wish for.
Johnson was indeed the instigator, chastising Bryant and his injured hamstring for not being on the field and yapping at quarterback Tony Romo after every incompletion during 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills. So engaged and enraged was Bryant that he put his helmet on and attempted to jump into drills, despite coaches and trainers mandating that he rest his sore leg.
The intensity escalated and then boiled over when Cowboys’ linebacker Andrew Gachkar bull-dogged Rams’ center Demetrius Rhaney. From that tussle sprung a multi-pronged melee which included a pile of players ramming into the fence separating field from fans.
The only truly scary moments arrived when safety J.J. Wilcox had his helmet torn off and thrown into the stands by Rams’ players, and when Bryant sprinted approximately 50 yards – hamstring, remember? – and joined the middle of a fight without a helmet, only to be promptly punched in the face by Rams’ cornerback Imoan Claiborne.
In the scrap Bryant lost his diamond earring, which was later found on the field.
This fight comes just days after the NFL sent a memo to all teams about curtailing fighting in the preseason. Oops.
Both coaches and team management feigned disappointment over the scuffles. And, sure, they were probably irritated that valuable practice time against an opponent was cut short.
But truth be told, as long as no one is seriously injured coaches don’t hate these fights. They allow players to release pent-up aggression on someone other than their own teammates. It’s a great “I-got-your-back” bonding exercise. Guaranteed meeting rooms today for both teams will be filled with frame-by-frame analysis of the fights. Teams are toughened in this manner.
And, after all, this game is football, not Candy Crush.
Obviously Dez’s involvement was pointless and careless. But the same can be said for Tyron Smith (out with a biceps injury) and Rams’ running back Todd Gurley (rehabbing from a torn ACL), both of whom were in the middle of the skirmishes.
Fighting in sports – even by a team’s star player – is foolish. Always has been. Always will be. But it’s also inevitable.
Right, Nolan Ryan?
A native Texan who was born in Duncanville and graduated from UT-Arlington, Richie Whitt has been a mainstay in the Metroplex media since 1986. He’s held prominent roles on all media platforms including newspaper (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Dallas Observer), radio (105.3 The Fan) and TV (co-host on TXA 21 and numerous guest appearances, including NBC 5). He lives in McKinney with his wife, Sybil, and two very spoiled dogs.