We need to talk about the NFL trend of joint practices.
If you’ve ever been to an NFL practice, and I’ve participated in hundreds and hundreds, you know what they’re about.
Competition and physicality.
And if you’re in the preseason, you can throw ‘desperation’ in as a descriptor as well.
And what happens when you’re desperately, physically competing?
Maybe the NFL moved in the direction of joint practices because the preseason has been cut from four games down to three, but it’s not like the number of practices increase when you add a second team to the mix. If anything, you’ve actually drastically reduced the number of reps you get to see as a coach and GM because while your offense is on the field running plays against another team’s defense, your defense is standing around watching.
Couple that with having to make extended travel plans for an expanded roster, and it just seems like joint practices are more of a headache than a benefit.
Earlier this week, a debate broke out about whether the NFL’s best player, Aaron Donald, should be suspended for removing the helmets from two Bengals players and swinging them at everyone in sight.
In my opinion, the Rams front office should suspend themselves for having the galaxy-brained idea to put their most valuable player, a notorious hothead, in a competition space where he’s going up against the players he just beat in the Super Bowl, leading into a preseason game where you’re definitely not going to risk an injury by giving him extended snaps.
Training camp fights are part of the NFL, just like dropping the gloves is part of hockey. If Cam Newton is willing to risk it all to beat Josh Norman’s ass when they’re on the same team, do you really think that players aren’t going to go after guys that they don’t have to see in the locker room after practice?
A couple weeks ago, several New England Patriots were booted from practice after a brawl with the Carolina Panthers. Did the players learn their lesson? Hell no. The very next day, not only did the Patriots and Panthers brawl again, the fight went into the crowd.
Did anyone catch the third episode of Hard Knocks with the Detroit Lions? If you did, you probably agree that running back Jamaal Williams was doing everything in his power to kick off an all-out brawl between the Lions and Colts- and did that added emotion do anything to help Williams? No, he was out there over-emotional and dropping passes.
When a fight happens in training camp, that’s never the business of the NFL. That’s up to the team to handle, internally. But when you involve another team, and all of the sudden someone is swinging helmets, or falling into spectators, you’re inviting the NFL administration into a space it doesn’t belong.
Nobody wants to see their favorite players suspended because the team owners and staff, the same people that preach the idea of going into literal battle to players on the fringe of the roster who are desperate to change their lives for the better, decide to treat the joint practice like a literal battle.
Get rid of the joint practices, or the next time we talk about this, it could be because Roger Goodell had to step in and protect your players and franchise by getting rid of them for you.
Let that sink in.