NFL’s “Joint Practices” Have Turned into Slugfests; What Should the League Do?
LBN’s Jess Burke reminds us that a scuffle in the New York Jets locker room recently ended with Geno Smith getting a broken jaw and IK Enemkpali being thrown off the team. But the latest fight news in the NFL has come from what the NFL calls joint practices. If players can’t get along with their own teammates, Burke wonders, what can we expect in a joint practice session?
The joint practices and preseason games give fans and players a hint of what to expect come September, when the season starts for real. But during this week, Burke says, “players are literally taking things into their own hands.” Fistfights with the opposing team have broken out in joint practices between the Rams and the Cowboys, the Dolphins and the Panthers, the Texans and the Redskins, and the Eagles and the Ravens. In the Cowboys-Rams set-to, Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant caught a fist in the face. Both coaches cancelled the practice early.
New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton has no patience with the practice session fistfights. He told his players that, if they planned to fight during the joint practice with the Patriots, “pack your bags.” Those two teams stood out during the week because they didn’t have any fights.
But, Burke wonders, what can the NFL do to stop the fighting? “Do they fine each player a dollar amount for fighting?” That won’t work, he says. “Some players would willingly pay a price” in order to throw a fist at an opponent. So the question becomes, should there be legal action to stop the fighting? If so, at what point?
Burke points out that professional football teams are a business, and no business can afford to have employees sidelined because of an injury caused by the action of another employee. That’s especially true if the employee is a key member of the team whose unique skill set is important to the success of the business.
Some analysts have suggested that ending joint practices is the solution to the problem. As Allen Iverson put it, “It's easy to sum it up when you're just talking about practice.” Burke says that the NFL is interested in pleasing its loyal football fans. However, players just can’t risk the injuries that can come from a fight, even if a fight video gets a lot of “likes” on Facebook. Commissioner Roger Goodell will have to step in and figure out a solution.
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