Monday, August 2, 2010
And in this corner, the Arizona Cardinals
By Mike Sando
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- Pro Bowl defensive lineman Darnell Dockett launched into guard Alan Faneca, driving the nine-time Pro Bowler onto his back.
Dockett fell on Faneca and the two wound up at the feet of Matt Leinart. It all happened so fast. The play had hardly begun.
Though it was only practice, not a game, Dockett's instincts took over. He grabbed Leinart by the ankles and brought down the quarterback, a clear violation of same-squad protocol.
"I'm not trying to hurt him," Dockett said, "but damned if I ain't trying to go 100 percent every time I put my hand on the ground."
Upset, Leinart spiked the ball. Offensive tackle Levi Brown did what the lineman's code said he had to do. He slugged Dockett.
The Arizona Cardinals saw this as a good thing, a case of Brown standing up for his quarterback.
"I like that," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "You're looking for those guys to develop that bond or that territorialism to protect their guy."
Of course, Dockett couldn't let Brown or anyone get away with a free shot on him in front of the team and fans at the Walkup Skydome.
Dockett unloaded on Brown in combination and pretty soon the entire team was involved. The Cardinals conducted the remainder of practice with an intensity rarely seen outside game conditions. Bodies were flying. Fists, too.
Backup tackle Tom Pestock threw two uppercuts at linebacker Mark Washington and the two had to be separated. Tight end Stephen Spach goaded linebacker Cody Brown into a tug-of-war by the face masks. Linebacker Joey Porter ran over and verbally lit into Brown, excoriating the second-year pro for letting Spach get the better of him -- exactly the type of direction the Cardinals expected from Porter when they signed the veteran pass-rusher.
"Don't accept anything from anybody, even your teammates," Porter said. "I don't care if he grabbed your face mask or did something dirty. Let him know that is not acceptable. You can handle it right there on the field and get it over with in 30 seconds and come back in the locker room and all be on the same page. But you let anybody get away with something once, they are going to do it all the time. My message to him was, 'Don't let that happen, especially not in front of me.'"
There were confrontations even before the team portion of practice, as when guard Deuce Lutui jabbed defensive lineman Alan Branch in the facemask area during one-on-one pass-rush drills. Branch threw his helmet and barked at Lutui on his way back to the side where defensive players were standing.
The Cardinals' emotions dissipated quickly following practice. Some linemen laughed as they reenacted punching motions. The players won't be on the field Tuesday until late in the afternoon, anyway.
"When you are putting the pads on, man, as much as you love your teammates, damn, you trying to kill them," Dockett said. "That is what it's all about. That is the only way you can get better. You can't come out here and play 80 percent and hope to win our third division title. It just don't happen like that."
Dockett apparently had the San Francisco 49ers in mind.
"Every day we step on the field, we have to go harder and harder and harder," he said. "We got to treat them (teammates) like they're the 49ers. They have to treat us like we're the 49ers. That is the only way we are going to be able to compete and that is the only way we are going to be able to back up all the great work and try to win our third title."