The Los Angeles Rams’ second joint practice with the Las Vegas Raiders ended early when the teams had a prolonged brawl Thursday.
The fight began during special teams work, and it started and stopped several times before coaches Sean McVay and Jon Gruden decided to scrap the remaining periods of practice, which had been scheduled to last for another 45 minutes.
“Everybody knows better,” Gruden said. “It wasn’t everybody fighting. It’ll be on TV. You’ll see a bunch of guys screaming and yelling, but it was two guys in a special teams period, and then it was a lot of trash talking that just escalated. Just sickening, really, it’s just stupidity, but I’m done with that. It’s just child’s play to me.”
The culprits weren’t easily identified in the mass of players working on punt blocking and punt coverage outside the Rams’ training complex, but punches appeared to be thrown by both teams.
Gruden and McVay weren’t pleased by the disruption to the practice plan for the Raiders and the Rams, who will meet again in a preseason game Saturday night at SoFi Stadium. When the fight finally calmed, Gruden could be heard ordering his players off the field: “To the bus!”
McVay, Gruden’s employee in Tampa Bay 13 seasons ago, called the skirmish “unfortunate.” The Rams finished up the practice against themselves while the Raiders boarded buses back to their hotel.
“I did think that there was a lot of good work that we were getting in,” McVay said. “We only had a little bit left, and it felt like the best decision, just based on kind of the temperature of the situation, was (to) bag the last eight plays in the team period that we had.”
All-Pro Aaron Donald took a rest day for the Rams, but he wasn’t surprised to see what happened from the sideline.
“It’s football, man,” Donald said. “Honestly, every joint practice I’ve ever been a part of, there’s always a fight. The way things happened yesterday, how physical it was, I was pretty sure it was going to come back and be a lot of BS.”
The teams had a few minor scraps in Wednesday’s first practice, but nothing that significantly interrupted the flow. The Raiders’ defense was the biggest winner from the opening practice, putting together a solid performance against the Rams’ reconfigured offense under quarterback Matthew Stafford.
One brouhaha Wednesday started after Raiders running back Josh Jacobs received a zealous hit from All-Pro Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey. Jacobs later tweeted: “Love this team.”
“(It was) definitely about how the whole situation was handled,” Jacobs said when asked what his tweet meant. “If you look at our guys and see how we reacted, and see their guys and how they just let some things happen … I mean, I like the fact our team got the fighting spirit, and not only that, but they had each other’s back.”
Although the fight wasn’t caused by the historic rivalry between these two venerable franchises, it was somewhat of a reflection of that tension. The Rams and Raiders play in different divisions, but they have a joint history with Los Angeles that continues even today, 27 years after the Raiders left town.
The Raiders are still probably the most popular team in the metropolitan area because of their Generation X and early-millennial fans from the franchise’s mostly successful 13-year run at the Coliseum while the Rams were based in Anaheim.
The Rams are the most popular team located in the LA market since they returned home five years ago, but overtaking the Raiders could require a generational shift.
The Rams and Raiders only have to wait until Saturday for the next chapter of their rivalry. Thousands of Raiders fans are expected at SoFi.
“Emotions get a little bit higher when you introduce another team, but we got to try to overcome that,” said Raiders offensive tackle Kolton Miller, a UCLA product. “Definitely we have each other’s backs. But it’s something we don’t want it to get in the way of practice.”