Aaron Donald swings helmet at Bengals’ players during joint practice brawl
The NFL has never gotten involved in legislating joint practice fights, instead deferring to the clubs to punish players. Maybe it’s time.
The Bengals and Rams engaged in an all-out brawl Thursday afternoon to end their work.
A photo posted by Sam Greene, a photojournalist with The Cincinnati Enquirer, shows Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald holding two Bengals’ helmets, one in each hand. And a video from CincyHub shows Donald viciously swinging one helmet before getting knocked to the ground and then being held back. Multiple punches were thrown between the two teams.
Jay Morrison of TheAthletic.com wrote on social media that there were “full on roundhouse punches being swung, helmets being slammed on other peoples heads, multiple players joining in. Full on melee.”
“I don’t know exactly what instigated it,” Rams coach Sean McVay said, via Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times. “I think in some instances it’s teams defending each other. Fortunately, my understanding is nobody got hurt, and we’ll move on from it. Not going to make a bigger deal than what it is. Not going to look at pointing fingers.”
But swinging a helmet or helmets at opposing players should be a big deal. Browns defensive end Myles Garrett was suspended indefinitely for swinging Mason Rudolph’s helmet at the quarterback’s head during a 2019 nationally televised game, and Garrett ended up serving six games. Based on the NFL’s history of ignoring joint practice fights, Donald presumably faces no discipline for a similar (or worse) transgression.
Donald was scheduled for a news conference after the session, which ended three reps early, but he did not talk Thursday, according to Klein.
“I just see guys swinging and some guys have helmets on; some don’t,” McVay said. “There’s a scrum. You just never know what can occur. And my biggest concern in just unnecessary injuries for people that we’re counting on.”
Some minor scuffles took place before the brawl that ended practice, with Bengals right tackle La’el Collins throwing a Rams’ helmet.
The Rams and Bengals seem to be fortunate someone wasn’t seriously injured, and the NFL needs to ensure that it doesn’t ever happen by punishing players under the Personal Conduct Policy.