While not advocating unnecessary meathead violence, it was nice to see a little more passion from the offensive line on Monday. Justin Rogers, The Detroit News
Allen Park — On the team’s second day in full pads, tempers flared during Detroit Lions training camp practice Monday afternoon.
During one-on-one competition in a pass-rush drill, chippiness between the offensive and defensive linemen spilled over, ending with a punch being thrown before teammates quickly rushed to intervene.
Going head-to-head, second-year guard Laken Tomlinson and defensive tackle Stefan Charles had a hotly contested rep in which the two remained engaged well after the snap should have ended. Words were exchanged in close quarters, followed by a shove from Charles, leading to a wild right hook from Tomlinson.
Teammates from both sides quickly attempted to break up the fight before it escalated further, but only after offensive tackle Riley Reiff’s helmet was knocked from his head in the chaos. Tomlinson, meanwhile, continued to bark at multiple defensive players before he was eventually led away from the group by center Travis Swanson.
Camp fights are hardly an uncommon occurrence around the NFL. That shouldn’t be surprising given the powder-keg combination of intense heat, testosterone, physicality and competition for jobs. But under the even-keeled leadership of coach Jim Caldwell the past two-plus years, cooler heads have almost always prevailed.
But while Caldwell’s calm demeanor is generally reflected by the roster, there’s no question the aggressive coaching styles of assistants Kris Kocurek and Ron Prince shines through with the linemen on both sides of the ball.
Throughout camp, both coaches have shown no hesitation to chew a player out for a mistake, with Tomlinson getting an earful from Prince after a couple sloppy reps during an earlier practice.
Caldwell, who said he was unaware of the altercation between Tomlinson and Charles, said he wants his team to focus on being competitive, not combative, on the practice field.
And as rare as a practice fight has been with Caldwell at the helm, it’s equally surprising that it was Tomlinson who lost his cool. He’s among the most mild-mannered players off the field, a Duke graduate with post-career aspirations in the field of medicine.
But between the white lines, his competitive fire burns as bright as anyone on the roster.
“That characteristic in me is good for the group,” Tomlinson said after practice.
But when asked specifically about the altercation with Charles, Tomlinson did his best to act like nothing happened. Instead, he attempted to spin the day’s intensity as a positive.
“We’ve just got a bunch of guys competing, that’s all,” he said. “I just see it as a bunch of guys trying to get better. They’re helping us get better, we’re helping them get better.”
Defensive tackle Tyrunn Walker, who has gone head-to-head with Tomlinson a number of times during camp, cracked a big smile when questioned about the skirmish. For Walker, it was a moment that showcased something he felt the team lacked last season.
“It’s great,” Walker said. “You need that fire, especially in the trenches. That’s something we didn’t have last year.”
Defensive end Devin Taylor was also appreciative of the fierce battles between the groups, but he understands there’s a line that shouldn't be crossed.
“Preferably you’d rather do it against another team, but sometimes it happens against your teammates,” Taylor said. “You always want to have a have good competition, but you never want to fight your own teammate because we all need each other, as a team.”
It will be interesting to see if the Lions will be able to keep their emotions and fists in check next week, when they travel to Pittsburgh for three joint practices with the Steelers before the teams’ exhibition opener.
Lions players will have Tuesday off following four straight days of practice. They are scheduled to return to the field Tuesday evening.