SANTA CLARA, CALIF. - Ordinarily, it’s the drudgery of practice and excitement of the game.
A possible exception to this rule is players are more apt to fight during practice -- where the penalty is usually nothing more than a “knock-that-off” scolding – than a game, where the penalty can be 15 yards, never mind defeat.
There was a spell here Thursday on the practice fields outside Levi’s Stadium when the Denver Broncos and San Francisco 49ers had so many fights going on, they were happening at the same time.
There were two skirmishes between the Broncos’ offensive line and San Francisco defense line on one field – Denver right tackle Menelik Watson and left guard Allen Barbre were involved.
“We want to be smart bullies,’’ said Broncos head coach Vance Joseph. “We don’t want to be idiots. We don’t want to get penalties that cost us big plays in the game. (Watson’s) an emotional guy, but he’s also a tone-setter. There is a fine line—even (Garett Bolles) Bolles. Bolles is a guy with a serious edge. We want some of that. But, we want to be smart bullies. We want to be aggressive, but not hurt our football team with selfish penalties. When you’re fighting a guy one-on-one, that’s your battle and you hurt us, that’s about you and that’s selfish. We don’t want that.”
As one of the Broncos-offense vs. San Francisco-defense brawls was going on, a wilder melee was happening on the other field where, according to witnesses and player testimony, 49ers receiver Pierre Garcon and – surprise! – Denver cornerback Aqib Talib mixed it up.
“I was innocent, man,’’ Talib said after the practice. “I don’t know what happened. I got tackled, man. It went left.’’
Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. tipped a pass by San Francisco quarterback Brian Hoyer and the ball ricocheted into the hands of safety Justin Simmons. As Simmons was returning his interception, Talib threw a shoulder block on Garcon, the intended receiver.
Garcon took offense and tackled Talib. That didn’t go over well.
“It was a pretty dirty move,’’ Harris said of Garcon.
Broncos safety Will Parks led a parade of players who joined in and the physical and verbal exchanges got intense.
“Just a little wrestling match, it wasn’t no major thing,’’ Talib said. “I’ve been in real fights. That was nothing.’’
Later in practice, Talib, Garcon and Broncos star Von Miller were seen laughing it up during a special teams period. The three even posed for a photo.
There was only one altercation during the first joint practice Wednesday. That started when 49ers defensive back Adrian Colbert belted Broncos tight end Steven Scheu after Scheu made a catch down the seam during a 7-on-7 drill.
Scheu got up to retaliate. After some pushing and shoving, the 49ers benched Colbert for a few minutes.
It was no surprise tempers escalated on day two.
The two teams go their separate ways Friday, and then play a preseason game Saturday night at Levi’s Stadium (8 p.m. MDT kickoff, Channel 20).
“We upped the intensity a little bit so it will be fun Saturday,’’ Talib said.
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