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Rams-Raiders practice brawl adds anticipation to nationally-televised preseason game

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at Los Angeles Rams Joint Practice Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Rams and Las Vegas Raiders are slated to hold a preseason game on Saturday night at 7 PM, but so far the tenor of everything you hear out of camp is that Wednesday and Thursday’s joint practices will carry more weight, importance, and excitement than anything you’re set to see in the game this weekend.

Almost on queue and at a time convenient enough to end practice with a handful of special teams snaps left to be played, the Rams and Raiders got into a training camp skirmish or brawl or fight or whatever word you’d find most appropriate. As long as nobody gets hurt, some might call it theater.

I would just say it was predictable.

The Rams and Raiders held two joint practices in 2019. There was a fight involving Aaron Donald during the second joint practice back then too.

The Rams and Raiders held a joint practice in 2018. A fight broke out.

In 2017, the Rams held a joint practice against the LA Chargers. There was a fight.

So in all four seasons in which Sean McVay has been LA’s coach and allowed to hold joint practices, there has been a fight at said joint practice. Which is really not even something to find to be that interesting because a) it’s expected at this point, and the anticipated is never as interesting as a good surprise and b) it’s not really that big of a deal.

It might look like there’s a pattern with Rams joint practices if you’re only focusing on the Rams, but this is a commonality among all teams at all joint practices. Not only do the fights remind us of the game’s competitive nature, which is what seems to be the number one motivating factor for all of the greats, the will to be better than your opponent, but they also serve as added hype to a contest that will not feature many of the names you heard coming out of these joint practices.

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at Los Angeles Rams Joint Practice Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

On Saturday night, you will not see Matthew Stafford attempt to get his revenge for throwing three interceptions on Wednesday. You will not see Jalen Ramsey prove to the world that of course he can lockdown Hunter Renfrow. And not only will the starting quarterbacks be out, but both backup quarterbacks could be held out of this game to protect them from injury.

But on several occasions the broadcast crew might remind you that these two teams fought during their joint practices, and they might have some unseen footage of it if we’re lucky.

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at Los Angeles Rams Joint Practice Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

While it is certainly understandable that fights can happen when you’re in a very intense situation and potentially competing for your job, it is also odd. I can’t remember the last time I saw players getting into a “brawl” during an NFL game. I’m not saying that it hasn’t happened and I’m not saying that it hasn’t happened recently, but I do know that it’s rare enough for me to not be able to come up with many examples of it ever happening. One-on-one fights happen at times, we’ve had some famous cases, but it’s rare enough to make those cases famous.

Four fights in four opportunities over the last five years? Five, if you include against the Cowboys less than two weeks ago.

And three of those are when the two head coaches are seemingly close as family?

Do players simply act out because they have no fear of getting punishment because it’s practice? Is a potential 15-yard penalty and maybe getting ejected really the only thing that withholds every player from every game from throwing a swing or from wrestling someone else to the ground after a play?

It’s odd. But the Baltimore Ravens haven’t lost a preseason game since 2015. Maybe odd things just happen this time of year.

I guess we’ll see if the players can keep their cool on Saturday night at 7 PM on the NFL Network. (They will.)