The training camp fight is a staple of the NFL preseason, and coaches generally approve of the concept no matter how much they may say otherwise. Most see a good donnybrook as an indicator of team spirit and intensity, qualities that can lead to wins down the road. At least, that's the concept.
Well, if fights lead to wins, the Arizona Cardinals are on their way to another Super Bowl. According to Mike Sando of ESPN.com, the Cards went at it hard at today's practice. The instigator was defensive tackle Darnell Dockett(notes), who's been blowing up his own offensive linemen early on in camp - Sando detailed an earlier play in which Dockett pushed Reggie Wells(notes) into Matt Leinart(notes).
On this play, Dockett drove nine-time Pro Bowl guard Alan Faneca(notes) on this back and brought Leinart to the ground by his ankles. And that's where things got interesting. If there's one thing coaches do NOT like, it's when their defensive players take after their starting quarterbacks in alleged non-contact drills. Offensive linemen, especially of the future Hall-of-Fame variety, aren't generally thrilled about it, either. Leinart got up, spiked the ball on the ground in anger, and offensive tackle Levi Brown punched Dockett. From there, all heck broke loose. From Sando:
Dockett unloaded on Brown in combination and pretty soon the entire team was involved. The Cardinals conducted the remainder of practice with an intensity rarely seen outside game conditions. Bodies were flying. Fists, too.
Backup tackle Tom Pestock(notes) threw two uppercuts at linebacker Mark Washington(notes) and the two had to be separated. Tight end Stephen Spach(notes) goaded linebacker Cody Brown(notes) into a tug-of-war by the face masks. Linebacker Joey Porter(notes) ran over and verbally lit into Brown, excoriating the second-year pro for letting Spach get the better of him -- exactly the type of direction the Cardinals expected from Porter when they signed the veteran pass-rusher.
Even before that part of practice, guard Deuce Lutui(notes) and tackle Alan Branch(notes) were going after each other - it was a very energized day for a team trying to get over the hump this year and back into the deep postseason. The ever-quotable Dockett explained the thought process to Sando:
"When you are putting the pads on, man, as much as you love your teammates, damn, you trying to kill them. That is what it's all about. That is the only way you can get better. You can't come out here and play 80 percent and hope to win our third division title. It just don't happen like that ... "We got to treat them (teammates) like they're the 49ers. They have to treat us like we're the 49ers ... that is the only way we are going to be able to back up all the great work and try to win our third [division] title."
If that's the way the Cards treat each other, the 49ers had better watch out when the season comes.