COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) – Fights during joint practices at NFL training camps have been a common sight this year, a trend Los Angeles Chargers coach Anthony Lynn does not expect will continue when the New Orleans Saints join them for two days of workouts beginning on Wednesday.
The Chargers and Saints practiced together without incident for two days last year in Orange County, which makes Lynn optimistic there will not be any trouble this time around.
“We had good, clean, physical practices last year against this group, and I expect the same thing,” Lynn said Tuesday. “I know (Saints coach) Sean Payton. I’ve known him for a long time. I know what he’s telling his guys and I know what I’m telling my players, so I don’t expect any fights or anything like that tomorrow.”
Baltimore and Indianapolis became the latest teams to scrap during training camp, with multiple donnybrooks breaking out during their workout Saturday.
Other notable fights this month included a session between Washington and the New York Jets that devolved into a large brawl between both teams, and a fracas between Houston wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and San Francisco defensive back Jimmie Ward which led to Texans coach Bill O’Brien booting Hopkins from practice.
Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen understands why the competitive atmosphere of joint practices can become combustible.
“Going against our guys everyday, now we get to go against another defense and compete, see where we at,” Allen said. “You’re out here competing, everybody trying to make a play and it gets physical. Just got to be able to take it.”
The Chargers were unable to avoid the temptation during joint practices with the Rams last year, as Allen and other Chargers wide receivers got into it with Rams defensive backs on several occasions.
Offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt is more interested in using the Saints as a measuring stick for evaluating a deep, but unproven wide receiving group rather than as a punching bag.
“That’s a spot that’s not always easy to find guys, so to have guys competing for spots on our team and doing a good job, it really helps us,” Whisenhunt said.
Lynn likes how the wide receivers have performed in training camp, with 2017 first-round pick Mike Williams continuing to impress by making several more standout touchdown receptions Tuesday. However, he won’t turn the Chargers into a “run-and-shoot” offense just because of how the group does in practice.
“We have one guy, two guys, one and a half guys that have production,” Lynn said. “These other guys are strictly projections. Mike Williams hasn’t done a whole lot in NFL games. I love what he’s doing in these camps. We don’t want to get too far ahead in how deep we are at that position until we get into the season.”
The Saints’ secondary should be a good tool for gauging where the Chargers stand at wide receiver. New Orleans finished in the middle in the pack in terms of yards passing allowed per game last season, but ranked third with 20 interceptions.
Allen is looking forward to matching up against Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore, who had five picks as a rookie. However, Allen wishes the joint practices had come earlier in training camp and not before the crucial third preseason game, which serves as the final dress rehearsal for the start of the regular season.
Still, Lynn sees the joint practices with the Saints as a welcome device for breaking up the monotony of training camp.
“They can stop looking at each another and hitting one another and practice against someone else. It should be fun. Last year we got a lot of good work in, so we’re looking forward to the same thing this year,” Lynn said.
NOTES: Cornerback Casey Hayward appeared to sustain a hamstring injury late in practice, but Lynn said Hayward did not believe it was serious. … Wide receiver Tyrell Williams is limited because of a sore foot that Lynn said might be caused by a bone bruise. … Left tackle Joe Barksdale missed practice because of an illness.