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Rams battle it out during scrimmage
Jackson gets into it with Atogwe
BY STEVE KORTE
St. Louis Rams coach Scott Linehan tried to limit the physical contact between his starting offensive and defensive units, but it didn't keep a scuffle from breaking out between running back Steven Jackson and free safety Oshiomogho Atogwe during he team's scrimmage on Saturday.
Though there was supposed to be no live tackling and little contact between the starters, Jackson was hit on a running play by strong safety Corey Chavous and then had the ball violently stripped out of his hands by free safety Oshiomogho Atogwe.
Atogwe shoved Jackson, who retaliated with a blow to Atogwe.
Players and coaches swarmed around Jackson and Atogwe trying to separate them. Just when it appeared the skirmish was over, right guard Richie Incognito picked up a loose helmet and tossed it toward Atogwe.
here was another brief mob scene before the scuffle was finally broken up.
Linehan was unhappy about the altercation, which lasted about one minute.
"You have to keep your composure," Linehan said. "That's the kind of thing that will cost you a game. You get a guy kicked out of the game or a personal foul in an untimely part of the field, it's going to potentially cost us a game. It's unacceptable, and it's nonnegotiable. We have to get that corrected."
Incognito was the only combatant who spoke to the media after practice. He said he was simply protecting Jackson.
"It's more about right and wrong," Jackson said. "Don't hit Steven. Don't touch Marc (Bulger). It's not about me being macho, me being a tough guy. It's kind of like (me being) the sheriff, just keeping things cool. When something goes down like that, and you have people punching at your running back who is a huge part of our offense, you have to step in."
Incognito said there were no lingering bad feelings among the players involved in the scuffle.
"It was just a high testosterone situation and things got heated," Incognito said. "We're a bunch of competitors out there. We have a lot of competitors on this team, and things can escalate real quick. We're family, and sometimes families have fights. We were just laughing about it in the locker room right now."
The scrimmage drew 1,524 fans -- the largest crowd so far during training camp -- to Rams Park.
There was only one touchdown -- a 20-yard pass from quarterback Brock Berlin to tight end Mark Anelli -- scored during the scrimmage.
The Rams' second-string offense did have a long first drive that ended in a field goal, and there was a touchdown run by Kay-Jay Harris negated by a holding penalty and a touchdown run by quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick on a broken play that was reduced to a first down by the coaching staff in the pursuit of fair play.
Fitzpatrick took the ball and ran around the left side after running back Travis Minor slipped and couldn't take the handoff.
"It was a broken play, and he used his legs," Linehan said. "The idea was that we weren't going to have the quarterback get hit, so we gave them the first down to make it fair for both sides."
Three were three turnovers (two interceptions and a fumble), a pass interference penalty and two bad snaps on punts by backup long snapper Aaron Walker during the scrimmage.
"I have not talked to Walker about what happened," Linehan said. "For some reason, it was slipping out of his hands. I think he had his gloves on and his hands were extremely wet. Whatever it was, we need to get it corrected."
Cornerback Tye Hill intercepted Bulger, while Josh Lay intercepted Fitzpatrick.
Linehan said fatigue from the heat -- the temperature had already hit 90 degrees by late Saturday morning -- was probably a factor in the mistakes by his offense.
"Things were fine for about the first half, then I thought our conditioning was somewhat suspect," Linehan said. "Then again, I'm looking at how one of our groups was going (during) all the plays in extreme heat. I don't think our conditioning is as big of an issue as it appeared because we had limited numbers."
Some units, like linebacker, have depleted numbers among the second-string and third-string players, so players on those units had to log extra duty in the heat.
"I felt we got setup a little bit because defensive guys play more special teams than offensive guys," Rams linebacker Chris Draft said. "We were out there running down on kickoffs and kickoff returns and then turn around and playing a little defense. Unfortunately, they got some points on us, but I guess at the end of the day, the Rams win."
Linehan said he reminded his players that they could be facing hot weather during the team's early season road games against Tampa Bay (Sept. 23) and Dallas (Sept. 30).
"I said, 'Remember how you feel right now. This is going to be the first or second drive of the Tampa game or even Dallas,"' Linehan said. "We have to prepare for these kind of conditions because we have two early games that could be extremely warm."
Return specialist Dante Hall didn't take part in the scrimmage due to a sore hamstring muscle.
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