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Shutdown Corner

Saints’ practice fight makes some wonder: How much is too much in OTAs?

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"No petting zoo for you!!!" (AP)

On Wednesday -- just one day after the Seattle Seahawks were dinged two practices for excessive contact during offseason organized team activities -- the New Orleans Saints found themselves in a bit of a fracas during their minicamp practice. According to NFL.com's Ian Rapoport, the incident occurred when linebacker Curtis Lofton landed on backup quarterback Chase Daniel while trying to deflect a pass. Daniel threw the ball to the ground, it hit Lofton, and as they say, it was on like Donkey Kong. The offense had Daniel's back, the defense had Lofton's back, and various examples of pushing and shoving ensued.

"We really only have three quarterbacks there, so we don't like to get hit at all," Daniel said. "Because the slightest of hits can cause a serious injury as we've seen. It wasn't necessary in frustration, I was just mad that he literally just ran into it. We cleared it up, we're good. Everything's good to go. It's hot, we're in the middle of practice, emotions flying everywhere and that's what happened."

Daniel was proud of his teammates, as he should have been -- with Drew Brees filming a NyQuil commercial on the day during his long-term contract holdout, it was Daniel who needed to stay sharp.

"Out of the whole scrum and scuffle, that was one of the best parts that I saw," the quarterback said. "It was just guys sticking up and Jimmy Graham was in there and Jahri Evans and sooner or later, it was like 30 people. I just said,  'Hey. I'm outta here. I'm going back to the huddle to get ready for the next play.' But it was nice to see that."

Lofton, in his defense, said that he was the aggrieved party. "I thought he was going to throw it, I jumped up, I kinda grazed him and quarterbacks are a little touchy when it comes to stuff like that," he said. "And then I was walking away and he gave me the look like… I was like, 'He better not do that.' And so he threw the ball, it bounced and then it hit me. I had to have words after that."

In the end, Lofton said, the defense won this particular battle.

"It wasn't even close. Offense had a couple guys on the ground, couple helmets off."

Interim head coach Joe Vitt was relatively unconcerned. Perhaps, he opined, the players were a bit burned out in the Louisiana heat. "I think we're going to back off and take them to a petting zoo tomorrow and maybe do something fun like that," he said.

The "business as usual" attitude about the training camp fight brings to mind the fact that it was a fight between Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin and safety Earl Thomas that got the NFL and NFLPA watching the Seahawks' practice tape. "We're asking these guys to work really hard, and it really matters to them and they really care," Carroll said after the May 24 fight. "And they want to make their plays and their statements, and I don't blame them one bit. But there is a line that you can cross, and that's what we talked about afterward. We want to be able to take it as far as you can, and demonstrate the poise when you need to most."

A couple plays after that fight, rookie safety DeShawn Shead "almost took Baldwin's head off while coming up hard to knock down a ball over the middle," per Eric Williams of the Tacoma News-Tribune.

Nothing more was said about it at the time, and you can bet that this sort of thing is going on at OTAs and minicamps around the NFL. You know why? Because football is a contact sport, and players are trained to go at a certain speed to avoid injury. No matter how much and how often the league tries to legislate contact out of the game to a ridiculous and unrealistic degree, it's not going to happen.

What the Seahawks got punished for, and what the Saints did that will probably cause another Roger Goodell snit, is a part of football. It's as simple as that.

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