Rams and Raiders literally fight it out during practice preceding preseason opener

Rams coach Sean McVay watches joint practice with the Oakland Raiders.
Coach Sean McVay was happy his Rams didn’t lose composure after a fight broke out during a joint practice with the Oakland Raiders.
(Eric Risberg/ Associated Press)

It happened, perhaps, because it was the second day of practice between the Rams and the Oakland Raiders. Or maybe the Raiders offense simply did not want to be pushed around two days in a row.

Of course, with cameras for HBO’s “Hard Knocks” series on site, any opportunity for drama was welcome. So no one got too angry Thursday after punches were thrown during a brief mini-brawl between the Raiders offense and Rams defense.

“A little bit of pushing and shoving never hurt nobody,” Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald said.


Rams coach Sean McVay agreed.

“What I love was the fact that our guys were able to regather themselves,” he said. “We had a poise and composure about ourselves in terms of being able to finish out the practice.

“A credit to both teams to be able to do that because, you see when things get chippy early on, sometimes you end up having to cancel those practices.”

McVay and his players said they got valuable work during joint practices last week with the Chargers and this week with the Raiders.

The four workouts served as what will qualify for established starters as their most intense preparation for the season. Those players will be held out of the preseason opener Saturday against the Raiders, and preseason games against the Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos and Houston Texans.

Cory Littleton is playing on a one-year contract that will pay him about $3.1 million, meaning he needs to earn a new deal with the Rams.

Aug. 6, 2019

The goal, McVay has long maintained, is to get to the Sept. 8 opener against the Carolina Panthers with a healthy roster. So far, the Rams are on track.

Linebacker Justin Lawler had foot surgery this week, and linebacker Samson Ebukam did not participate in practices against the Raiders because of a hamstring issue, but the Rams otherwise appear physically sound, especially Donald.


In 2017 and 2018, Donald stayed away from training camp because of a contract dispute. He focused on conditioning and technique during workouts in hometown Pittsburgh, and won the NFL defensive player of the year award two years in a row. Since his arrival for training camp last month, Donald appears to be enjoying being around teammates and “the live speed of playing football in pads” as they prepare for the season.

“I like this better than just running,” he said.

Tackling was not allowed during the joint practices. Had it been, Donald and edge rusher Dante Fowler would have been credited with multiple sacks Thursday.

“I feel like the defense came out a lot better than we did [Wednesday],” Donald said, “so that’s what I was happy about.”

But that did not stop Raiders quarterback Derek Carr from passing for multiple touchdowns and big completions.

On Wednesday, the Rams defense had set the tone when cornerback Aqib Talib intercepted Carr’s first pass in a seven-on-seven drill and returned it down the left sideline amid jeers from Raiders fans. Talib did not practice Thursday, getting the day off along with running back Todd Gurley and offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth.

Carr came out firing on the first play, connecting with receiver Marcell Ateman for a touchdown pass as safety John Johnson defended. Carr quickly passed for another touchdown when running back DeAndre’ Washington got behind linebacker Cory Littleton.

Meanwhile, in a drill at the other end of the same field, things got heated between Donald and Raiders guard Gabe Jackson.

“Just got to do what I got to do to help my guys,” Donald said.

Rams rookie Taylor Rapp is still adjusting to the tempo of the NFL game, but the safety has made a good impression on Sean McVay and his teammates.

Aug. 4, 2019

The physical and vocal exchange might have set the stage for the excitement to come. After a play in a full-squad drill, Rams linebacker Josh Carraway threw a punch. Raiders offensive lineman Tyler Roemer also was reportedly involved.

“It’s going to happen,” Rams cornerback Marcus Peters said of fights. “Guys get chippy, especially up front.”

As players for both teams tried to defend teammates and break up the fight, McVay sprinted from the adjoining field where he was monitoring the Rams’ offense.

“You kind of hear the skirmish,” McVay said. “It was really already under control by the time I got over there. But what was pretty cool was when you hear the way the players amongst themselves were communicating and gathering themselves.

“We talk about that ownership all the time, and I thought our leaders did a great job of getting everybody under control.”


With quarterback Jared Goff and other experienced starters being held out Saturday against the Raiders, Blake Bortles is expected to start at quarterback. McVay said the coaching staff had not determined whether center Brian Allen and guard Joseph Noteboom would play. The two linemen, both second-year pros, are projected starters for the regular season opener. Nose tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day and linebacker Micah Kiser, also second-year pros projected to start, are expected to play a few series, McVay said. ... Rookie safety Taylor Rapp tipped a pass that was intercepted by Kiser. ... Jackson, a Raiders guard, was carted off the field with a leg injury that appeared serious. “We’re concerned, obviously, really concerned about him,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said. “We’ll get more information here when we can be specific for you. I don’t want to speculate.”