Fights erupt during rugged padded practice

Falcons left guard Justin Blalock, who has been with the team since 2007, said that Monday’s bone-rattling practice may have been the toughest he’s had under head coach Mike Smith.

“It’s right up there,” Blalock said.

In addition to running the Oklahoma drill, Smith, normally a proponent of safe practicing and wrap-up tackling, let the players tackle to the ground for the first time during his tenure.

“I said early on, last April that it would be a little bit different,” Smith said. “I don’t anticipate changing. I think that there are going to be some guys competing every single time that they come out of the field. There are lot of roster spots. Nobody is guaranteed anything.”

There were two major fights.

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Defensive end Stansly Maponga and offensive tackle Gabe Carimi traded blows before going to the ground. A pack of offensive and defensive linemen had to separate the combatants. Later, offensive tackle Ryan Schraeder won a battle with linebacker Jacques Smith, who was mouthing off during the Maponga vs. Carimi and that irritated center Joe Hawley.

So, Schraeder may have been carrying a message to the rookie from Hawley.

Smith was annoyed by the fights.

“They are wasting a lot of energy when they are fighting,” Smith said. “It was expected. Guys are competing. They are fighting for jobs. But that’s not the way to fight for a job. The way to fight for a job is to do it between the whistles.”

The veterans didn’t appear 100 percent sold on the Oklahoma drill, though.

“Oh my goodness, it’s been awhile,” said Blalock, when asked about the last time he’d run the drill. “Probably, it’s been high school or middle school since we’ve done it like that.”

The Falcons have been trying to provide some excitement for the fans and the HBO camera crews, who were racing around getting all of the action.

“It was interesting with a few matchups out there,” Blalock said. “It was fun for the fans up in the stands to watch. I’m not sure that it correlates to playing the game, but it was entertaining.”

Right guard Jon Asamoah said he had done the drill since his college days. Linebacker Paul Worrilow said Delaware opened spring practice with the Oklahoma drill each year.

“We were excited to see how it was going to go,” Asamoah said. “It was man-up time. When it was time to go, it was time to flip that switch and let it all out there.”

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