Dan Campbell offers great insight on practice fights and why he liked Tuesday’s scrap between Amon-Ra St. Brown and Ifeatu Melifonwu

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Before Tuesday’s practice session, Lions head coach Dan Campbell shared an anecdote about his time as a member of the Dallas Cowboys. Then-Dallas coach Bill Parcells commanded Campbell, a no-nonsense tight end, to pick a fight in a training camp practice with Greg Ellis, one of the toughest guys on the team.

Campbell shared the story with the message that while he didn’t want his players to go out of their way to mix it up, he wouldn’t necessarily mind a little edginess. And he got just that in Tuesday’s practice.

Rookies Ifeatu Melifonwu and Amon-Ra St. Brown exchanged blows after a feisty special teams rep. The fight was quickly contained and neither player was worse for the wear. Campbell was happy to see it, both the fight and the quick outcome.

“Yeah, I mean, I was fired up,” Campbell said in Wednesday’s pre-practice media session. “Because they were competing, man. It was good to see both of them, two young bucks, go after it. They were, uh — look, we had a pretty good idea of Amon-Ra, you know? The Sun God? What he’s capable of? His aggressiveness shows up — it would show up on tape — in college. Look, this guy will mix it up. And there’s things you see with Iffy in school, but I didn’t quite know (about his aggression level). And to know he’s got, ‘Hey man, I’m not your punching bag,’ that encouraged me, it really did.”

It was nothing like the bench-clearing brawl that dominated the New York Giants practice session on Tuesday, one that ended with starting QB Daniel Jones at the bottom of a massive pileup of players swinging freely at anyone else in a uniform. St. Brown and Melifonwu continued practice, even going against each other, with no hard feelings. Here’s where Campbell’s nuanced tone, one that’s often ignored by the national media, really showed.

“Look, they know what we don’t want,” Campbell said. “It doesn’t mean we’re not going to have a couple of heated battles in there, but to me, where you end up having a problem is when you start having all-out brawls all practice long, and it’s like, ‘Oh my God, here we go. We got a 10-minute period, and 8 minutes of it is fighting amongst the team?’ It’s counterproductive, and you got to do something about it because you’re not getting work done. But those little things, I think, man, I just think they make you practice better, I think they make you practice harder. You don’t want to lose to that guy. You’re pissed off.”

Campbell continued, showing some real deep thought and maturity as a coach,

“I love it because it puts you to that point where you see red so much that you want to beat this guy, and yet you got to be under control enough to know that you can’t just go out there and throw a haymaker, if you will, as it relates to football, because that’s not what this is about. It’s no different than a game — you get so mad that, man, you go out there out of control? That’s not the game. You can’t win that way. But I do think that to be able to get pushed to that point, that limit, to where you’re going to do whatever it takes to beat that guy, and know that he’s going to try to do the same to you, I really believe that’s how you get better. I just do. So it was good. I thought they responded well, both of them.”