ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The day after Richard Sherman praised both teams for their lack of physical conflict, the re-energized 49ers defense got under the skin of the Broncos and the result was a sideline-clearing skirmish.
“If it’s clean like it was today, two teams just competing, getting after it and perfecting their craft against guys who are different, not all the fights and excess then it’s fine,” Sherman said after the first joint practice in Colorado on Friday,
Unfortunately, it got a little chippy between the 49ers' defense and the Broncos' offense during the second day of team drills.
There was pretty big hit by the 49ers defense that resulted in a tackle for a loss and tempers started to flare. The ensuing play was an incomplete pass from Drew Lock to rookie tight end Troy Fumagalli. Marcell Harris went flying across the field as a result of an apparent blind side shove and both groups tussled on the field for over 30 seconds.
Two Broncos players, receiver Brendan Langley and tight end Bug Howard were ejected from practice. Coach Kyle Shanahan said he didn’t see the melee but like anything else, he will watch the film to make sure his players were not the instigators.
“Yeah, they got into a little scuffle over there,” Shanahan said. “I actually wasn’t on the field, so I didn’t see much of it. By the time I got over there, it was pretty much broken up. I know a couple guys got sent in. I was told none of our guys threw punches, so when I see the tape, we’ll see if they were telling the truth. Hopefully, they were.”
While the 49ers' defense may not have started the fight, they decidedly are more confident this season.
“It’s light years ahead of last year,” Sherman said. “I think it’s just young guys being veterans this year. I think the experience that a lot of guys playing a lot of downs last year gave them the confidence they needed to take the next steps.
“That’s why you see our twos and threes way ahead of where they were last year and our ones light years ahead of where they were, especially with the talent. Even when you’re missing Dee Ford and [Nick] Bosa right now, we’re still making plays, we’re getting the rush, we still have the intensity."
Sherman also noted how the addition of Kwon Alexander’s high level of energy has affected second-year linebacker Fred Warner in a positive way.
“It’s huge,” Sherman said. “You see it because they are tone setters. They’re in the middle they are just about on every tackle. They can feel every pass play every run play and when they’re bringing energy I think it emulates throughout the defense. The D-line feels it, the secondary feels it. Their intensity can change the day.”
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When asked who started the fight, Sherman smiled.
"Good question. We'll just say them. It was them."