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Rams, Raiders can’t fight their competitiveness as joint practice is cut short

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Rams coach Sean McVay and Raiders coach Jon Gruden share a moment on the sideline.
Rams coach Sean McVay and Raiders coach Jon Gruden decided to cut their joint practice short when the teams kept fighting between plays.
(Ezra Shaw / Getty Images)

Check out updates ahead of Rams vs. Raiders during Week 2 of the NFL preseason.

The second joint practice between the Rams and Raiders had to be cut short because fights kept happening.

The team is preparing for its second preseason game, facing off with the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday.

Rams coach Sean McVay, Raiders coach Jon Gruden surrender to the fighting

 Rams head coach Sean McVay squats on the sideline.
Rams head coach Sean McVay wishes they could have completed their joint practice with the Raiders, but too many fights happened.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

The Rams and the Las Vegas Raiders ended two days of joint practices in predictable fashion.

With a fight.

As their teams engaged in a seemingly never-ending scuffle Thursday, Rams coach Sean McVay and Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden called it a day.

The Raiders headed to their buses. The Rams huddled with McVay before running a few plays as a finale.

“I’m glad that nobody got injured,” McVay said. “It’s unfortunate we didn’t get to finish up.”

Scuffles are endemic to joint practices, at least for the Rams. Since returning to Los Angeles in 2016, most of the joint practices with the Chargers, Dallas Cowboys and Raiders have featured punches.

In 2017, former Rams cornerback Trumaine Johnson slugged Chargers receiver Dontrelle Inman in the head. Nickell Robey-Coleman, another former Rams cornerback, shoved Inman to the turf.

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A few weeks ago, Rams star defensive tackle Aaron Donald scuffled with Cowboys guard Connor Williams.

Donald did not participate Thursday, having been given a veteran’s day off. But after several fights broke out Wednesday, Donald said he was not surprised by the outburst.

“It’s football, man,” Donald said. “Honestly, every joint practice I’ve ever been a part of, there’s always a fight. But the way how things happened [Wednesday], how physical it was, I was pretty sure it was going to come back and be a lot of B.S.”

The fights began during a special teams drill. It appeared to start on the interior line after a play, but tempers seemed momentarily cooled as other players intervened. But then it started up again, bringing players and coaches from the adjoining field into the mix.

It once again appeared tamped down before flaring again, causing McVay and Gruden to end the workout.

“When there’s an all-out scuffle and you’re yelling, ‘Hey, get back, all right that’s it, get on the bus,’ we’re kind of all agreeing that hey this is the end of practice,” McVay said.

Despite the ending, McVay said it was valuable workday.

“We didn’t get exactly everything that we anticipated which is a little bit of a bummer,” he said.

The two practices with the Raiders, coupled with a joint practice with the Cowboys, will serve as the only live reps for starters and other important players during the preseason. Rookies and reserves once again will play Saturday when the Rams play host to the Raiders at SoFi Stadium.

McVay said the opportunity to work against different players and schemes was valuable.

“We definitely got some good work in,” he said.

Other observations from the joint practice:

—After having three passes intercepted Wednesday, Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford looked sharp, completing several impressive passes to receivers Cooper Kupp and Van Jefferson. The running game also was more effective. “It was a much more crisp day for the offense,” McVay said.
—Kupp made the play of the day with a one-handed catch on a route in the middle of the field.
—The workout was closed to the public, but some Raiders fans still got a bird’s-eye view by walking the trail of a hill that abuts the practice facility.
—Rams rookie linebacker Ernest Jones made a good play breaking up a pass.
—Rams cornerback David Long did not practice because of a groin issue, McVay said.
—Left tackle Andrew Whitworth was given a veteran’s day off. Joe Noteboom played in his spot.
—Cornerback Jalen Ramsey said that after reviewing film of the Wednesday workout he could not see what precipitated social media posts that credited Raiders receiver Hunter Renfrow with having a big day against him, posts that Ramsey responded to on Twitter. “I get that sometimes mentioning my name going against certain receivers may give them buzz and may pump them up some,” Ramsey said after practice Thursday. “This is no disrespect to Hunter Renfrow because I actually think he’s a pretty good player. I think he has some Cooper Kupp in him. But I didn’t have no issues [Wednesday] watching the film. I played pretty well, so maybe people just need to learn the difference between zones and man and schemes. But I mean it doesn’t really bother me, but sometimes I feel like you’ve got to set the record straight … and then you just leave it at that you tell people to enjoy their day.”

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Rams coach Sean McVay has some tips on Matthew Stafford’s interceptions

Rams starting quarterback Matthew Stafford prepares to throw.
Rams starting quarterback Matthew Stafford had some errant throws against the Raiders.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

One pass was tipped and intercepted by a Las Vegas Raiders safety. Another, seemingly thrown up for grabs, was picked off by a cornerback. Then another tipped pass was intercepted by former Rams linebacker Cory Littleton.

Those three turnovers by quarterback Matthew Stafford stood out Wednesday as the Rams held the first of two joint practices with the Raiders at the Rams’ Thousand Oaks training facility.

Neither Stafford nor Rams coach Sean McVay sounded overly concerned.

“I made a couple poor decisions that I wish I had back — that’s practice,” Stafford said, adding that the Rams were using, “some of the new stuff that we’re putting in, and I want to make sure I get reps at it. I’ve got to do a better job of making sure that we end up with the ball at the end of every play.”

McVay is not playing starters or other important role players during preseason games, making joint practices with the Dallas Cowboys and the Raiders significant opportunities to evaluate players, play-calls and schemes.

The Rams traded quarterback Jared Goff and two-first round draft picks to the Detroit Lions for Stafford, the No. 1 pick in the 2009 NFL draft. Last season, Stafford passed for 26 touchdowns, with 10 interceptions.

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McVay noted that two of the passes intercepted Wednesday resulted from tipped balls “that really didn’t have anything to do with” Stafford.

“He’s aggressively trying things out,” McVay said, “so then you can learn how to be smart with that decision-making thought process when the games really count.”

Stafford, preparing for his 13th NFL season, was looking forward to Thursday’s workout.

“Going to have good days, going to have bad days — especially out here on the practice field trying stuff,” he said, “and just want to learn from all of them.”

The two-hour practice was interrupted several times because of skirmishes between players. The workout ended not long after Rams receiver Robert Woods absorbed an aggressive hit that coaches and players generally frown upon in what is regarded as a controlled setting.

“I didn’t like how sloppy it felt overall,” McVay said of the practice. “There was a lot of breaks in the action because of unnecessary stuff. It wasn’t exclusive to one side or the other.”

Rams defensive lineman Sebastian Joseph-Day and Raiders offensive lineman Richie Incognito were involved in one of the dustups.

“I felt like they were doing some cheap stuff out there and I just let them know that,” Joseph-Day said. “One thing led to another — and we had a friendly talk.”

Said Stafford: “Hopefully, we can play a little bit more ball and not be pushing and shoving as much” on Thursday.

Other observations from the joint practice:

—Much was conducted in light rain and misty conditions. Stafford took one deep shot to receiver DeSean Jackson, but the pass fell incomplete.
—Stafford looked sharp in seven-on-seven red-zone drills, completing several touchdown passes. Backup John Wolford also had a touchdown pass to tight end Brycen Hopkins.
—The Rams struggled to run the ball effectively. Darrell Henderson found space on a few plays but was otherwise neutralized. One good play was nullified by a holding penalty. Running back Cam Akers, who suffered a season-ending right Achilles injury before training camp, attended the workout wearing a plastic boot.
—Van Jefferson used his size and strength to make a tough catch in traffic. Jefferson later left the practice because of what McVay described as a forearm issue, but the receiver returned to finish the workout.
—Rams rookie defensive back Robert Rochell intercepted a pass by Raiders’ back-up quarterback Marcus Mariota.
—Raiders receiver Hunter Renfrow made several impressive catches.
—Rams general manager Les Snead and Raiders general manager Mike Mayock observed part of the workout together.
—Rams punter Corey Bojorquez boomed several punts. McVay has said there is not a competition between veteran Johnny Hekker and Bojorquez, but Hekker said during offseason workouts he is approaching every situation as a competition.
—Edge-rusher Leonard Floyd (ankle) did not practice. Offensive lineman Tremayne Anchrum was sidelined because of an allergic reaction to something he ate, McVay said.

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