Wide receiver Jerry Rice and linebacker Bill Romanowski exchanged punches in a hot-tempered practice Monday as the San Francisco 49ers sought to shake off a sloppy performance in their exhibition opener.
Coach George Seifert was forced into the role of peacemaker after a series of scuffles broke out on the practice field on a hot day at Sierra College.
The defending Super Bowl champions, 23-13 losers to the Raiders Saturday night at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, went through an intense practice session that heated up quickly when Rice and Romanowski tumbled to the ground with fists flailing after one play.
Seifert quickly jumped into the fray and helped break it up, ending up on the ground in the process.
"It was the first time I ever wound up on my butt on a football field," he said.
"It was a little bit more scuffling than you like as a coach. You like the enthusiasm of it, but that's not going to win your football games. We're not a pro tag team, we're a football team, and we have to perfect our techniques. Besides, we don't want to lose a football player out there."
Romanowski downplayed the incident, saying that he and Rice kidded each other about it after practice.
"Maybe (Rice) was trying to liven up the offense a little bit, get them fired up," Romanowski said. "Because of the way we played Saturday night, everyone seemed to be fired up.
"The coaches wanted us to be crisp and attack. And tempers got going."
Also engaging in minor scuffles during the session were offensive lineman Brett Wiese and nose tackle Jim Burt, and guard Bruce Collie and defensive lineman Pierce Holt.