Wednesday morning, Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell looked thrilled with how the team’s first padded practice had concluded the morning before. Some punches exchanged between rookies Amon-Ra St. Brown and Ifeatu Melifonwu caught a lot of attention and headlines.
But if you were expecting a speech from Campbell about how that sort of behavior is unacceptable and has no business in this game, your jaw may have dropped to the floor watching Campbell speak about the incident.
“I was fired up because they’re competing, man,” Campbell said. “It was good to see both of them, two young bucks, after it.”
Of course, if that’s all he said—and some outlets decided to cut off his quote there—then it would be a pretty odd response. Doing that in a game would likely result in a penalty and ejection, which is something no coach would want.
But there’s a deeper discussion to be had here because Campbell explained later why he didn’t punish either St. Brown or Melifonwu for the incident—he was actually encouraged by it. Because while they did initially throw punches at each other, when they lined up again in the same drill just a few reps later, they were able to battle—with just as much intensity, if not more—and not have it break into another fight.
“I love it because it puts you to that point where you see red so much that you want to beat this guy, but yet you have to be under control enough to know that you can’t just go out there and throw a haymaker,” Campbell said. “Because that’s what this is about. It’s no different in a game. You get so mad that man, you’re out of control? Well, that’s not good anyway. You can’t win that way.”
But when asked how he can be sure this sort of behavior won’t bleed over into the actual games, Campbell just kind of shrugged it off.
“You don’t fight in games. It’s a 15-yard penalty. You don’t do it. And we tell them you don’t do it, and I think they know you don’t do it,” Campbell said. “But this isn’t a game. This is practice right now, getting ready for a game.”
So today’s Question of the Day is:
Are you okay with unpunished fights during training camp practices?
My answer: I mostly think what happened between Melifonwu and St. Brown is relatively harmless, and it certainly isn’t uncommon during training camp practices, especially on the first day of pads.
However, I do think Campbell is being a little reckless just assuming this sort of thing won’t happen in a game because the players know the difference. The entire point of practice is to learn behavior, make it second nature, and bring the same behavior and action to Sundays. You play like you practice, and if you practice with a temper that boils over into a fight occasionally, there’s probably a decent chance you’ll occasionally do it during games, too.
At this point, there’s no systemic problem in Detroit. This was one blowout, and it wasn’t a full-out brawl like they had in New York. And Campbell is right, it was a good sign that both St. Brown and Melifonwu were able to continue practicing without incident.
But you don’t get that second chance in a game. You throw haymakers once, and you’re done for the day. So Campbell better make it super clear to his players, because just telling them “don’t do it in games” won’t be enough if the players have been conditioned to “see red” during practice.
Are you cool with occasional fighting at Lions camp?
Yes, it’s not like we’re endorsing brawls
No, you’re encouraging undisciplined behavior
0 votes total