Sparks, fists fly at Titans-Rams practice

Wednesday, August 6, 2008 at 2:14pm
It didn’t take long for the fuse to be lit between the Tennessee Titans and St. Louis Rams in Wednesday. Mike Strasinger for The City Paper

It didn’t take long for the fuse to be lit between the Tennessee Titans and St. Louis Rams in Wednesday morning’s full pad practice.

No less than four fights broke out between the Titans’ defense and the Rams offense during the morning work, but by afternoon the fiestiness had mostly subsided.

Meanwhile, all was quiet on Tennessee’s offensive end where quarterback Vince Young enjoyed a pretty solid performance working against the Rams defense in both team and seven-on-seven drills in both sessions.

The first battle between the Titans and Rams was a tussle between Tennessee cornerback Cortland Finnegan and Rams receiver Reche Caldwell that ended with Finnegan’s helmet being off.

After that, Titans safety Michael Griffin took Dane Looker to the ground and Titans linebacker Keith Bulluck shoved Caldwell causing another fight to occur.

The final two fights involved the offensive and defensive lines, where Kyle Vanden Bosch was seen on the ground, punching Rams tackle Adam Goldberg at the end of a play. Sean Conover and Mark LeVoir mixed it up on the very next play after that fight.

Titans defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, who mostly stayed out of the way because of what he termed his “one-year probation,” otherwise known as the franchise tender, said the Titans’ aggressive style sometimes lends itself to extra-curricular activities.

“You know this defense. We’re a tough, rough defense. We don’t back down from anybody, and that’s how we’ve always played,” Haynesworth said. “Ever since that day that Lance Schulters gave us that nickname the Tennessee Tyrants, that’s what we’ve been trying to live up to.”

Former Titan Drew Bennett, now a Rams receiver, said he briefed his new teammates on what to expect from his old club.

“I told them that 93 [Vanden Bosch] has a non-stop motor and that 31 [Finnegan] is feisty as well, and sure enough…,” Bennett said.

Haynesworth said the Titans need to be more focused on getting the job done on the field rather than the added activities that might occur.

“We need to focus a little bit more and stop worrying about kicking people’s butts and stuff and actually do it between the whistles,” Haynesworth. “I think we got a little more focused on the brawls after [the play] instead of the actual play. We let some get by us.”

The fights were the focus of the morning, even to the point that that at least offensive player wished he was on the other end.

“Man, I wanted to watch the other field. I wanted to go over there so bad,” tight end Alge Crumpler said.

Rams coach Scott Linehan said that while the fighting wasn’t good, it did help to get his squad ramped up a bit intensity-wise.

“We were anticipating it, and we need that as a football team,” Linehan said. “We needed some of that to an extent. After awhile it kind of got excessive as far as the banging and guys trying us. We needed that. That's something we're trying to build on is our toughness and at the same time build on our mental toughness.”

Titans coach Jeff Fisher attributed the aggressiveness to the fact that both teams were eager to face someone other than their own teammates.

“What you saw today is probably the hardest day for both clubs in training camp, particularly because of where we are in camp, how they feel physically, how close we are to playing a ballgame and you put two teams together like that, and they forget about everything and just go,” Fisher said. “This was quite a challenge for both clubs. They ended up helping each other off the ground, which was what you like to see.”

Things had calmed considerably by the afternoon work as there was a minor shoving match between the Titans safety Calvin Lowry and Rams receiver Derek Stanley, and a trading of hard hits between the Rams tight end Joe Klopfenstein and Titans safety Donnie Nickey.

LEFTOVER: Bulluck was willing to let bygones be bygones, but was ready for the Rams’ Caldwell over an incident from 2006.

Caldwell, then with the New England Patriots, drew Bulluck’s ire in the season finale from that year as Bulluck accused Caldwell of taunting the Titans over Vinny Testeverde’s late touchdown pass in a game that had already been decided and eliminated Tennessee from playoff contention.

“It’s just one of those things where I left it alone, I left it alone and then words were exchanged and it just went from there,” Bulluck said. “This afternoon’s practice, we kind of squashed it, and we’ll just let it go from there.”

Bulluck said after words were exchanged on Wednesday that Caldwell tried to throw a punch at him.

“He threw a punch at me. I caught like Neo from The Matrix, and the rest was history,” Bulluck said. “Those scuffles in football, you just let them go. … That type of stuff happens. At the end of the day, if he happened to come here, I’m sure he’d fit right in. I don’t hold grudges.”

KINDER, GENTLER WORK: There were no incidents involving the Titans offense and Rams defense. The only hint of any extra-curricular contact came after Vince Young’s pass for Brandon Jones was intercepted by rookie Justin King. As soon as King tried to get up he was knocked back to the ground and tackled by Kevin Mawae.

WON’T PLAY: Receiver Roydell Williams did seven-on-seven work, but was held out of team drills in the morning and did not work in the afternoon.

Williams, just off the PUP list this week after January ankle surgery, said he does not expect to be on the field when the Titans play the Rams Saturday night at LP Field in the preseason opener.

“I won’t play Saturday. It’s just caution. I don’t think I’m ready right now, maybe later on, but not right now,” Williams said. “I’ll need some more time just to get my body back right and my ankle back right also.”

EDDIE VISITS: Former Titans running back Eddie George was on hand for the morning practice and doing some prep work for the preseason opener. George will provide color commentary on WKRN Channel 2’s broadcast of the game.

“The Rams are in town, and this is when it gets exciting, when another team comes in, and I just want to see where everybody is,” George said.

Asked what he thought of Titans first-round pick Chris Johnson, George said he wants to see the rookie’s blazing speed first-hand.

“I really haven’t seen him open it up,” George said. “He looks effortless when he runs. He certainly looks like a treat for Mike Heimerdinger, especially for that type of offense. You can see him doing a lot of spreads and mismatches and going one-on-one in the passing game, and really trying to get him into space. I’m really interested to see how they will utilize him during the year.”

George also said it was odd seeing Bennett back, but in a Rams uniform.

“It was weird. It hurts almost, because you know the history with the two organizations [Super Bowl XXXIV], and to see him cross over, it’s like seeing somebody from Ohio State go to Michigan. It’s the dark side, but that’s the nature of the business,” George said.

GIVE ME SOME: As for the other former Titan, guard Jacob Bell, he got to renew acquaintances with Albert Haynesworth. One reporter asked Haynesworth about the comment that Bell said that going against Haynesworth in practice helped make him a better player.

“He got a $36 million deal. I’d love to have something like that,” said Haynesworth, who had to settle for the $7.25 million franchise tag this season.

BREAKER 1-9: Titans offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger used his walkie-talkie device to communicate plays to his quarterbacks during the team portion of the morning drills. Heimerdinger usually stands behind the offense and instructs from that vantage point, but stood away on the sidelines communicating the plays into the quarterbacks’ helmets Wednesday.

The Titans have been using it on defense as well, trying to get players used to hearing the coordinators give them the calls in their helmets.

YOGA SESSION: While the Titans and Rams take part in special teams practice on Thursday morning, those not involved in that, will be in the bubble partaking in a yoga session.

“Whenever we have a special teams practice, we do that inside the bubble, and when I mentioned it to [Coach Linehan], he thought it would be a great idea,” Fisher said.

SUBBING IN: Craig Hentrich kicked field goals in the morning practice, but gave way to John Vaughn in the afternoon.

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