There was plenty of hitting at today's 49ers' scrimmage. Just one tiny problem: Some of the biggest blows occurred on the sideline. What began as a routine training-camp scrimmage grew more than a bit spicy when offensive teammates Vernon Davis and Larry Allen got into a fracas and had to be separated.
Very separated. A contingent of players, coaches and staff had to break the two apart and then moved Davis about 50 yards away onto an adjacent practice field. Despite the fact that Allen is one of the most powerful men ever to play in the NFL, Davis tried to get after him even after it had been broken up.
Bryant Young, Brian Jennings and Jonas Jennings helped separate Davis from the 49ers sideline where Allen remained. The team chaplain, Rev. Earl Smith, was one of those who helped try to calm Davis down.
Players and coaches downplayed the incident following the scrimmage. Said Young: "It was nothing - just part of the game. It's not a big deal. I've gotten into a couple over the years."
Indeed, Young got into a training-camp scuffle with offensive lineman Davis Baas two summers ago. But has he ever seen a fight between players on the same unit?
"That happens," he said. "You just have to make sure you're on the same page."
No one is quite sure how the melee began. A few plays earlier, Davis caught a 15-yard pass from Alex Smith. When he was ruled down, he raised his arms up and basked in the applause from the crowd. But the offensive drive against the second-team defense ended when a Smith pass to Maurice Hicks fell incomplete. As the offense was walking off the field, one of the combatants said something the other obviously didn't like.
Afterward coach Mike Nolan was asked if it was a concern that he had two offensive starters fighting each other.
"Yes and no," he said after pausing a few seconds. "I don't like guys fighting for someone to get hurt but I do like ... let's put it this way. If you're fighting about something, it means something to you. And that's really important. A lot of times, you'll find teams that are warm and fuzzy all the time. And in my opinion, those teams typically struggle in games because something's not important to them."
That explanation sounds similar to the one Nolan gave earlier this week when asked if he was concerned that Davis has gotten into jawing matches with numerous members of the defense. Nolan said he didn't want to see Davis, or anyone else for that matter, pick up a silly penalty, but that he liked to see spirit on the practice field. He said he didn't mind trash talk as long as a player could back it up.
Davis, meanwhile, said earlier in the week that he takes it upon himself to be a practice antagonist.
"If I see things are quiet and the guys aren't getting rowdy," he said Wednesday, "I'm going to take it upon myself to do something about it."
He also said he didn't mind if all his swagger and celebrating made him a target of opponents.
"I want that 'X' on my back," he said. "Put it on me. Come and get me."
Allen did just that.
Allen is a quiet guy in the locker room, but it doesn't seem like he tolerates whining. Just ask Jose Cortez. Remember the Cowboys-49ers game in San Francisco two years ago? Cortez missed an extra point and as he was walking off the field started screaming at his offensive line.
Allen responded by grabbing the kicker's face mask and nearly ripping the helmet off Cortez's head.
By the way, the media contingent that watched the scrimmage tried to talk to Davis, but he was ushered away from us. There will be more to come, I'm sure ...
-- Matt Barrows