- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 12, 2018

RICHMOND — Thunder, lightning and players fighting soured the first day of joint practices between the Washington Redskins and New York Jets at Bon Secours Training Center.

But these were no ordinary scuffles. Some high-profile Redskins admitted they would prefer not to have joint practices because the drawback of fighting outweighs the supposed benefit.

“I think you ask around the league, a lot of guys will probably say they don’t really care for the joint practices just because of things like this happening,” Chris Thompson said.

Josh Norman was not surprised that fights took control of the afternoon.

“Me personally, I think practicing against ourselves would be better, but I don’t make the rules and I sure don’t make these calls,” Norman said.

The biggest fight of the afternoon was triggered when a Jets player took a late hit on the Redskins‘ Morgan Moses after Moses blocked Trumaine Johnson, players confirmed after practice. It was centered on the Jets’ sideline, but players from both teams ran off the field to briefly join in. Trent Williams came to Moses’ defense, and Trey Quinn, Jordan Reed, Vernon Davis and Geron Christian Sr. were also involved.

“Football’s a physical sport. Everybody wants to compete. You just gotta draw the line in practice of what you can tolerate and what you can’t tolerate,” Reed said later.

It appeared Redskins coach Jay Gruden personally led Moses off the field after the fight. Williams almost left, too, but then returned to the practice and walked along the Jets’ sideline, with a Jets coach staying between Williams and the other players.

Moses was not available to reporters after practice. The fight was only captured on video by some fans because media could not shoot video during that portion of practice.

It was not the fights, but a storm in the area that cut practice short by almost a half-hour Sunday. The two teams will return to Bon Secours Monday and Tuesday mornings before their preseason game Thursday at FedEx Field.

There are two fields at the training center, and for much of Sunday’s practice, the Redskins‘ offense faced the Jets’ defense on one while the Redskins‘ defense drilled against the Jets’ offense on the other.

On the quieter field, Norman had a brief run-in with Terrelle Pryor, the former Redskins wide receiver now with the Jets, who was the focus of some trash talk between the teams before camp. Norman pushed Pryor to the ground during a play and Pryor “bumped” Norman when he stood up.

“I looked around and I saw other guys, three of my teammates running up,” Norman said. “And I was like, ‘Hold off, hold off, it’s all good. We’re not gonna cause no smoke over here.’ Because there was a lot of smoke on the other field so I didn’t want to take it there.”

The last time the Redskins held a joint practice, they hosted the Houston Texans in 2015. A brawl shortened the final practice of the Texans’ three-day visit that year.

“We’re going against somebody else in these long practices and it’s gonna get chippy,” Thompson said. “Guys are gonna want to fight. It happened with the Texans, so it’s something that’s gonna happen, but we continue to have joint practices.”

Thompson and Norman stopped short of saying joint practices are a waste of time. Both also mentioned that young players on both sides, in an effort to make the squads, were trying to add something “extra” when making tackles, in turn upsetting the veterans on the receiving end.

Thompson said he was “trying to maximize every single play” he got because he is still making his return from last year’s season-ending injury, so the distractions and lost time certainly added to his disappointment.

“We’re not able to be productive and get stuff done,” he said. “At one point I think it was every three plays there were guys, coaches trying to break up fights. That way we’re not getting each other better. We just out here to be out here.”

Thompson suggested the teams stay separated on their own fields if the fights continue.

Like Norman, Ryan Kerrigan lamented the loss of work when fights disrupt practice, because as a starter he feels he gets fewer reps in preseason games.

“Us veterans gotta do a good job of continuing to try to police that over there, and make sure we’re not the ones that are fighting,” Kerrigan said.

Eighteen NFL teams participating in joint practices this year, when less than 10 years ago the practices were much rarer. The Redskins hosted the New England Patriots in 2014 before the Texans came to Richmond in 2015 with HBO “Hard Knocks” cameras behind them.

Year in and year out, coaches and players say participating in joint practices breaks up the monotony of camp and gives players “different looks.” The uptick this decade also coincided with the 2011 collective bargaining agreement, which did away with old “two-a-days” and limited how frequently coaches could have their teams practice in shoulder pads.

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