August 04, 2008
If you put 80 NFL players together, many of whom earn their paychecks through sheer aggression, and make them bang into each other in 90-degree heat every day for weeks at a time, eventually, yeah, people are going to fight.
It's human nature. Humans just aren't meant to be around the same group of people for that long, at least not in such trying conditions. You could put me on a team with my Aunt Genny, and after five days of practice in brutal heat, I'm not going to be above punching her in the throat.
That said, though, I wanted to take a second and express my appreciation for
Panthers head coach John Fox, and the suspension he laid down on Steve
"Like Michael Westbrook, But With Talent" Smith.
I was surprised to see it. A two-game regular season suspension is not a small thing. To be honest with you, I expected Smith to get off with a delicate tap on the wrist.
And with that, I don't mean to imply anything negative about John Fox. It's not that I thought he was a softie or that he had a lax attitude on discipline.
It's more a reflection of the league-wide attitude towards training camp fights. Not only are they not seen as not a big deal and regarded as a "boys-will-be-boys" type of thing, but every now and then, you'll hear about a coach who's happy that his team's brawling in practice. "Hooray, I have players who lack the self-control to keep from lashing out at others in violence over petty little reasons!"
Coaches need to put the Ron Burgundy rule into effect for training camp fights: Absolutely, positively, no touching of the face. And we should also probably keep tridents out of the mix.
This is a part of getting ready for the season, too. There will be times when
you'll want to punch an opposing player. But you can't. The 15-yard penalty and
automatic ejection aren't worth it. You need self-control. And that might be
something you need to work at. Consider them restraint drills.
You're going to want to fight. That's just the nature of the game, and the nature of training camp. But that doesn't mean there isn't room for a little self-control, too. When a guy snaps and breaks off a right hook to someone else's face, that crosses the line. That is not "boys will be boys." That is "childish knob needs to learn to control himself."
And there are better ways to humiliate a guy, too. You're mad at Ken Lucas? Fine. What's going to bother him more? If you catch him off-guard with a quick shot to the nose, or if you tackle him, put him in the Boston Crab, and make him say "uncle"?
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