The joint portion of the final practice involving the Washington Redskins and Houston Texans came to an end Saturday when a series of fights broke out.
The teams had just started working against each other when the first skirmish occurred. When more followed on subsequent plays, and on both fields, the coaches decided to break the teams apart and each team worked on its own field for the rest of the session.
The change in plans caused Redskins coach Jay Gruden to agree the day was somewhat wasted.
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"Initially we had a couple on our field on the offensive field, and I was just going to cut that period out and have everybody go to the side, let everybody cool down and finish practice," Gruden said, "but then the other one broke out on the other field and it wasn't worth it. Injuries take place.
"Obviously, it wasn't a good situation, but we missed an opportunity to get better today against a good team."
Gruden and Texans coach Bill O'Brien initially tried to let their teams know the fighting wasn't acceptable, but Gruden added: "Unfortunately, it wasn't two people. It was a group of men" and "For whatever reason, it escalated into a nasty brawl."
O'Brien said the Texans benefited from "two and a half" of their three days practicing against the Redskins. And both coaches agreed that joint workouts hold great value in helping to prepare a team for the start of the season.
"Other than having to separate today, we still got work done," O'Brien said. "But the two days that we were together there, we got a lot of situational work. It was good to work against them. Being in the hotel as a team, there's some bonding that goes on there, too."
Gruden's team worked for three days against the New England Patriots last year, spending the last day in shorts before meeting the Patriots in their preseason opener. The coach, in his second season, said expecting teams to battle for three days in full pads might be asking too much.
The fights came early in the joint portion of the workouts as a heavy rain fell.
Redskins defensive lineman Chris Baker said one of the fights started when a Houston offensive lineman tried to "clean him off the pocket." Baker says when he removed his helmet and confronted the player, the player hit him with a right hook and a brawl ensued.
Baker says the Texans were angry because the Redskins got the best of them in their joint workout on Friday.
"I guess we kicked their butt yesterday so they came out here trying to be tough guys today," Baker said, "but it really didn't work. They had a rough day yesterday so they wanted to try to set the tone, but that's not going to happen here."
Texans linebacker Whitney Mercilus agreed that his team struggled on Friday, but chalked the fights up to "Just a whole lot of intensity on both sides of the ball."
Teammate Cecil Shorts III added that the Texans expected the skirmishes and were prepared for it.
"It just happens," he said. "When two teams have been practicing for a while against each other, tempers flare. ... We kind of figured something was going to happen and we prepared for it. We did a good job staying together. Nobody got hurt. It's over with. Let's move on."
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