It was the first fully padded practice this afternoon, and it was a doozy.
It started early on, when Larry Fitzgerald and Joey Porter took a turn battling each other on punt coverage on the outside, and a Fitz blow left Porter with a bloody lip (more on that in a later blog). But that was just a taste of the 11-on-11 battles to come.
The donnybrook came first. Darnell Dockett — he’s always in these things, right? — blew up Alan Faneca and both tumbled to the ground right in front of quarterback Matt Leinart. Leinart was moving away, when Dockett swiped at his ankle and tripped him. A no-no, and Leinart wasn’t happy. When he and Dockett stood up, Leinart went up to Darnell and spiked the ball at Dockett’s feet in irritation. Then suddenly, tackle Levi Brown was there, punching Dockett in the shoulder pads sticking up for his quarterback, and the scrum was on.
The next play, tight end Stephen Spach and linebacker Cody Brown mixed it up, with Spach grabbing Brown’s facemask. It didn’t get overly heated until linebacker Joey Porter saw it happen. “Don’t let ‘em grab your (expletive) facemask,” Porter screamed at Brown. A little while later, it was the third unit’s turn, when linebacker Mark Washington and offensive lineman Tom Pestock went at it, exchanging punches.
And when it was over, it was over.
“That’s what teams do,” Dockett said. “You compete, and don’t take nothing from nobody. I like it. I like the intensity, but I love at the end we come together as a family.”
Said Porter, “When you have a good team, you can fight all you want to, but when you go in the locker room, we are all one family. We’re just trying to make each other better. Fights are going to happen. As long as you can control them, it doesn’t matter.”
(Yes, we have video, and it’ll be up later tonight. The picture below of Dockett and Levi is from a video still. UPDATE: Here is the video).
Dockett admitted he was “kind of dumb” for taking out Leinart’s foot. “I shouldn’t have done that,” Dockett said. “But when you get caught in the battle, the engine turns on and you don’t think about it. I’m not trying to hurt him but I am trying to go 100 percent every time I put my hand on the ground. If I am doing that, I am making my team better.”
Coach Ken Whisenhunt called it “typical” of training camp, but he said it was nice to see the players going hard.
“Emotions were running high,” Whisenhunt said. “When you get the crowd out here, things get revved up. You see that manifest itself in the chippiness.”
Dockett said he was proud of Levi Brown stepping in, saying it was what he expects.
“I patted him on the back and at the end of the day, that’s my family,” Dockett said. “It means something that he is doing it to me, but he better do it to another person if it is somebody else. As long as he does that, I’m happy.”
Porter said he barked at Cody Brown because a player can’t let an opponent get away with things. “You don’t have to accept that, even from a teammate,” Porter said. “My message was, don’t let that happen, especially in front of me.”
Whisenhunt thinks the Cardinals can be smart with the intense practices. Dockett thinks it’s the only way the Cardinals can get another NFC West crown.
“That’s what it’s all about. As much as you love your teammates, when you put the pads on, you have to try and kill them,” Dockett said. “That’s what it is all about. That’s the only way you can get better. You can’t come out and play 80 percent and expect to win a third divisional title. It ain’t going to happen. We have to treat (the offense) like they are the 49ers and they have to treat (the defense) like we’re the 49ers.”
Tags: Alan Faneca, Cody Brown, Darnell Dockett, Joey Porter, Larry Fitzgerald, Mark Washington, Matt Leinart, Stephen Spach, Tom Pestock
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