It’s a fact, practices get chippy. Scuffles happen, sometimes a haymaker or two gets thrown, but most of the time players leave their helmet on, or at least they don’t weaponize the thing.
Unless of course, it’s the New York Giants this week. Things got so out of hand over in a practice scuffle to the point Damon Harrison tore off a rookie’s bonnet and started swinging it at him.
That’s not a gig any rookie in the NFL should be in line for, no matter how much you tick off a veteran. Tackle Nate Soldier, their splashy free agent pick-up, got caught up in the crossfire and walked away from the brawl in a limp. He’s ok, but that’s one guy you don’t want getting injured in a fight at OTAs, much less a fight he wasn’t involved in.
I can’t help but think that fights like this could be indicative of a larger issue, whether discipline, character or otherwise. I also can be relieved that the San Francisco 49ers we’ve seen might get chippy, but not to extreme levels with each other like this. The fight itself has nothing to do with the 49ers, but it’s certainly nice to have confidence that the team wouldn’t pull something like this by comparison.
Practices are competitive. When Jim Harbaugh was coaching the San Francisco 49ers, there were several times players took the gloves off and turned their rings around. But I don’t think they drew their helmet and swung it at a teammate’s head.
The 49ers in 2018 are also competitive. Kyle Shanahan isn’t giving jobs away, though some jobs are to be earned, and others are there for the players to lose. In any case, Shanahan wants the best on the field. Look no further than last year’s OTAs where the 49ers released veteran Jeremy Kerley when Trent Taylor outplayed him as a rookie. This was after Kerley signed a nice extension. When jobs are on the line, tempers definitely flare. When pressure is mounting tempers will flare. Last year, the 49ers got into some scuffles with the Denver Broncos in their joint practices, but nothing like this.
And this year, it seems like the roster assembled is looking out for one another and severe beatings aren’t happening with this team.
Only OTAs/minicamp has concluded, so there’s still time, but it seems like you can just assume that’s not happening with this squad. Besides a scuffle between Solomon Thomas and Weston Richburg, there really hasn’t been anything too severely escalated, and it’s a reflection of the team and head coach. Fights will happen, but the severity can be telling of the team and Kyle Shanahan has a group of competitors picking each other—rather than their helmets—up.
This could all change when pads come on and training camp begins. Right now, it’s just nice feeling confident that 49ers don’t have anyone yet trying to take a shot at their teammates. With or without their bonnet on.