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Near brawl disrupts UCLA practice

4/26/2012
UCLA coach Jim Mora said the near-brawl Wednesday at practice was "unacceptable" and "not who we're going to be." Peter Yoon/ESPNLA.com

LOS ANGELES -- Dust-ups, skirmishes and fights are bound to happen over the course of a spring football camp, but when things border on a brawl, it's time for the coach to take action.

That's what happened Thursday when coach Jim Mora halted practice and made the entire team run sprints after a mini-brawl broke out during team drills about midway through the session. Multiple players got involved after linebacker Eric Kendricks and offensive lineman Jeff Baca engaged in some post-play shoving and offensive linemen Brett Downey and Albert Cid each went after Kendricks.

Cid eventually threw a punch that sent Kendricks into a tizzy and drew a crowd of players and coaches from the field and the sideline and forced Mora to take action.

"It’s unacceptable," Mora said. "That’s not who we’re going to be and that’s not what we’re going to do. A punch was thrown and so we paid the consequence for it. I want this team to play with class and composure at all times and in order to play that way, you have to practice that way."

Mora was yelling at Cid the whole time as the team ran sprints for about five minutes, barking about discipline and how throwing a punch would get him kicked out of the game and cost the team 15 yards. Cid, who was suspended a half last season for his role in the benches-clearing brawl at Arizona, said he simply lost his cool.

"Just the heat of the moment," he said. "Nothing serious, I just got a little excited, that was all. There is a lot of competition going on out here and that’s just part of competing."

Baca was blocking Kendricks on the play and the two kept going at it after the whistle. After a few shoves, Downey came over and shoved Kendricks, who became even more infuriated. That's when Cid got involved and as Kendricks began to lose his cool, teammates and coaches surrounded the overheated situation and separated skirmishing players before it boiled over.

"It got a little intense," Kendricks said. "We’re trying to compete and takes things to the next level and it happens sometimes. Everyone is trying to be so competitive. Everyone is being held to a higher standard that sometimes a little extra is required and that’s what it leads to sometimes."

Kendricks did not participate in team drills for the remainder of practice despite trying to get in the action several times. The linebackers and offensive linemen were running sprints after practice, further enforcing Mora's disciplinary philosophy that if one member of a unit makes a mistake, the entire unit has to pay.

"That’s how it should be," Kendricks said. "There has to be a point where we can’t do that any longer. We’ve got to get to business so that’s all he was trying to get through."

Mora says he understands these things will happen over the course of a camp, especially when you are playing a physical game and going up against the same people day in and day out, but that he hopes to field a team with the discipline to turn the other cheek.

"They start trying to get in each other’s mind and get in each other’s grill and incite each other, but part of being a disciplined football team is having the ability to know when to step back away from those situations and we weren’t able to do that today," Mora said. "I think they’ll understand now how serious I am about that."