Updated, 1:39 p.m. ET
Monday’s practice fight between Joe McKnight and D’Anton Lynn, surrounded by a bunch of Wrestlemania bouts, was just a summer squall, something that goes on all around the NFL at this time of year, blown out of proportion by the assembled reporters, no big deal.
Or was it?
The chippiness between the green and the white continued at this morning’s closed camp practice at SUNY Cortland. Head coach Rex Ryan warned his players after one outbreak, and on the next play both units seemed intent on reenacting the fight scene from West Side Story for just a few seconds.
Ryan broke it up with profane “Hard Knocks” style warnings and advice to his players to knock it off. Shortly after, all the Jets lined up for maybe 10 gassers from one sideline to the other, and then got some more words from the head coach before continuing practice.
Most of the coach’s midday news conference was taken up by questions about the fights and his response to them.
“You’ve already had your scrimmage and when you come back, it’s not uncommon,” Ryan said in his opening remarks. “Guys are chippy, they still want to hit, and you see that. My big thing is protecting your teammate, don’t do anything selfish. I think sometimes you’re trying to be physical. But being physical is one thing and going past that is something else. That’s why we stopped and had to remind guys, the enemy is not in green and white. So that’s what we did.”
Was that the first time safety Eric Smith recalled receiving penalty gassers in mid-practice in his four years under Rex? “I think so, yeah,” Smith said. “I didn’t even count the number. I was just listening for that double whistle so we could stop.”
Ryan’s ire was raised because players on both sides of the line were taking today’s “thud” drills a little too far, not only resulting in pitting offense vs. defense but also slowing down the process of improving the team.
“Rex is right. We’ve got to be smarter than that,” said LB Bryan Thomas. “Somebody could go down with a knee injury or anything. That hurts the team. That’s not making anyone else better.
“He made a good point — and he warned us, he told us, ‘Guys, you’d better cut this fighting out because it’s wasting practice time.’ “
Smith also agreed with his coach’s approach to today’s eruption.
“He knows we’re a physical team but we’re not being good teammates right now,” the safety said. “We need to take care of each other. We’re thudding up a little too hard, kind of taking plays farther than they should. … I don’t know if he’s disappointed in us, but we aren’t practicing the way we should be. Go be physical, but stop on the whistle.”
Ryan acknowledged the “balancing act” players have in practicing vs. teammates, citing a skirmish between CB Antonio Cromartie and TE Dustin Keller leading up to the larger get-together.
“When Cro plays to his physical abilities, he’s about as good as it gets. Then there’s that fine line of protecting your teammate,” he said. “I thought Cro should’ve backed off and not hit Dustin and all that. He was trying to be physical and pick his play up. We’re always talking about developing habits. I thought Cro was wrong in that situation. And we had some other cases with chippiness and things. It was time to do it and that will remind them.”
National TV, radio, Web, and newspaper reporting was devoted to Monday’s dust-up, but while the video was neat and this is the Jets, and even including today’s scrum in the equation, we’re still talking about summer fights.
“It’s just a part of training camp. You’re banging around, it gets hot, people get frustrated, tempers escalate,” Smith said, adding with a smile, “I don’t know why it’s such a big deal right now. I guess you guys got tired of talking about Tebow, so now you want to talk about fights.”
The antidote to intrasquad fighting is a game, so Friday night’s preseason opener with the Bengals in Cincinnati should be just the ticket.
“We’re definitely ready to hit on somebody else,” Smith said. “We’re getting tired of hitting each other. It’s been a week and a half now. We’re looing forward to hitting on another side.”
Sanchez also spoke to the team after Ryan, who said he sees that as a sign of his QB’s growing leadership, “and I see it not just there. I see the burning desire. He wants to win. And players are more accepting of it. Sometimes you’re a young player, you haven’t earned your stripes and all that. But the reason they’re accepting is they see how hard he’s competing, how hard he’s trying. In the classroom if no one has the answer, he has the answer. They’re understanding there’s only way to get there and that’s to do the work, and that’s what Mark has done.”
Sanchez threw the ball well during practice, with the exception of perhaps one pass over the middle during red zone period, when LB David Harris broke on the ball for the pick. … Later in the RZ drill, Greg McElroy went deep over the middle to FB/TE Josh Baker, who grunted to get as high as he could and snagged the high ball for the score. … FB John Conner was throwing his weight around. He made a nice sealing block on LB Aaron Maybin that sprang Terrance Ganaway down the left side. … RB Bilal Powell, said Ryan, “had some great jump cuts and some other things. He’s really been impressive to me.”
Owner Woody Johnson and president Neil Glat, in Canton, Ohio, for Curtis Martin’s Hall of Fame enshrinement on Saturday, were on the sidelines in Cortland for this morning’s closed practice. … Wednesday’s morning practice is open to the public.
Tags: Bryan Thomas, Eric Smith, Rex Ryan, SUNY Cortland, training camp
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