High preseason tensions came to a head yesterday as members of the San Diego Chargers started fighting on field during a practice. The incident started when San Diego ILB Manti Te’o hit TE David Johnson on a pass over the middle. Chargers guard Orlando Franklin came to Johnson’s defense, knocking Te’o to the ground in retaliation for a hit he saw as excessive.
Te’o got back up and went after Franklin, and teammates had to separate the two men. Tensions remained high in the moments following the incident, and quarterback Philip Rivers was heard taunting the defensive squad, suggesting that it took them until this point in the preseason to get properly fired up.
By the end of practice, however, things had settled down. Manti Te’o and Orlando Franklin, the original combatants, shook hands and resolved the incident. In interviews following the practice, coaches and players played down the incident.
“That’s what happens when you’re competing out there.”
Te’o explained in a subsequent radio interview with San Diego radio station The Mighty 1090 AM. He called the altercation “good competition.”
The San Diego Chargers incident is the latest in a series of preseason incidents involving player fights. First, Houston Texans and Washington Redskins players fought in an all-out brawl on the last day of their three-day joint practice series last month. Then, this Tuesday, Dallas Cowboys and St. Louis Rams players fought in three separate incidents during a joint practice. In the last of these, star Cowboys WR Dez Bryant was punched in the face, forcing the teams to take a break in the middle of practice. Yesterday, Dolphins DE Olivier Vernon and Carolina Panthers T. Michael Oher exchanged blows.
All three of these earlier altercations took place at joint practices between opposing teams, leading some to question the wisdom of allowing teams to meet up at preseason practices. However, as the San Diego Chargers incident shows, fights aren’t always just between members of opposing squads.
The San Diego Chargers’ next preseason game will take place this Saturday, August 22 at 7 p.m. Pacific (4 p.m. Eastern), where they will meet the Arizona Cardinals for an away game in University of Phoenix Stadium. Their first regular season game will take place on September 13 against the Detroit Lions in San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium.
[Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images]