BEREA, Ohio — What’s a joint practice in the NFL without a few fisticuffs?
The Browns and Giants almost wrapped up two days of joint practices with nary a fight, but alas, a mini-brawl broke out 15 minutes after the second practice Friday between Browns cornerback Troy Hill and Giants receiver Sterling Shepard.
By that time, many of the Giants were already headed to the team busses, and others were conducting interviews.
The fight appears to have been over Hill making a little helmet-to-helmet contact with Shepard after a reception. According to footage from Browns Training Camp Live, Shepard initially showed his displeasure by approaching Hill and dropping a little helmet-to-helmet thump on him after the play.
After Shepard and Hill both threw punches in the post-practice scrum, Giants receiver John Ross raced in to remove Shepard from the scene, lifting him off the ground in the process. Giants offensive lineman Matt Peart set a pick in front of Hill to prevent him from charging Shepard.
Afterwards, Shepard took off his shirt and headed to the busses with fellow receiver Darius Slayton, where he started to conduct his post-practice interview. A Giants PR official grabbed a shirt for him to put on for the interview, and Shepard didn’t let on that he had fought.
He was asked if he was surprised no fights broke out on a very chippy Day 2, and didn’t fess up.
“No, it’s friendly competition,’’ he said, via NJ.com. “That’s what we came out here for, it’s competition. It’s going to get into a talking match, it’s going to get physical out there. This is football. This is what we do. They understand that on that side, we understand that over here.”
He acknowledged that the Giants had more intensity on Day 2.
“We got a feel for it yesterday but we didn’t have that juice we had today, but that’s what it’s all about,’’ he said. “That’s why we came out here: To get good work. I felt like that’s what we got today.’’
Browns linebacker Anthony Walker Jr. tried to downplay the scrape, saying the two were just horsing around. Coach Kevin Stefanski, who was adamant he didn’t want his team fighting, didn’t know about the fight when he stepped up to the podium after practice.
“That’s news to me,’’ he said. “Thank you for breaking that to me. I don’t know.’’
He kidded that he’d have to watch the film.
When things got a little heated towards the end of practice — especially between chatty former Browns safety Jabrill Peppers and Browns defensive tackle Malik Jackson — the two head coaches, Stefanski and his longtime friend Joe Judge, pulled the squads into the middle of the field and lectured them on proper joint-session etiquette.
It almost worked. Fortunately, no one was hurt, and all in all it was two days of good work between the clubs.
Here are some other things that happened on Day 17:
1. Stefanski will rest most starters again Sunday
Fans heading to FirstEnergy Stadium Sunday for the lone home preseason game won’t see Baker Mayfield or most of the rest of the starters against Giants — just as last week in Jacksonville.
The theme of this training camp has been to get players to the season healthy, and Stefanski is committed to doing just that. Case Keenum will likely get the start again, with Kyle Lauletta replacing him.
Myles Garrett, Odell Beckham Jr., Jadeveon Clowney, Denzel Ward and John Johnson III will be on the sidelines. It wouldn’t be surprising if Mayfield doesn’t play at all in the third preseason game Aug. 29 in Atlanta either.
2. Greedy Williams and two others leave practice
Williams, backup center Nick Harris and defensive Porter Gustin all left with injuries and didn’t return. Afterward, the Browns announced that Williams, who’s coming back from a shoulder injury, left with a migraine and Harris and Gustin with knee injuries.
Harris, who was subbing for resting veteran JC Tretter, was injured in an 11-on-11 drill when defensive tackle Leonard Williams rolled past him and made light contact with Mayfield, for which Williams was reprimanded by Judge.
The Browns can ill afford to lose Gustin considering that No. 3 defensive end Takk McKinley is still working through a personal issue and hasn’t been at practice for the past three weeks.
3. Stefanski laments Phillips loss
Stefanski acknowledged that losing second-year linebacker Jacob Phillips to torn bicep muscle Thursday was a blow. Phillips will undergo surgery, and could be lost for the season.
“I saw it happen on the tape,’’ he said. “He just reached out and was trying to defend a guy running a route. Very unfortunate. I feel for Jacob, but he will bounce back. He will attack that rehab.”
4. Governor Mike DeWine watches practice
Jimmy and Dee Haslam hosted Ohio Governor Mike DeWine at practice. DeWine wore a Browns mask during the session and took a few photos.
5. Odell Beckham Jr. works with Mayfield
Beckham was in pads Friday after not participating on Thursday, and got in some good one-on-work off to the side with Mayfield. Their timing looks great, but Beckham was running routes against air. Beckham also spent some time chatting with former Browns coach Freddie Kitchens.
6. Two-minute fizzle
Both teams failed in their two-minute drills at the end of practice after the Browns won both rounds on Thursday. Mayfield had more success in red zone drills, hitting Jarvis Landry in the end zone on a post, before Kareem Hunt turned up the left side for a TD.
In the Giants’ red zone drills, safeties Richard LeCounte III and Ronnie Harrison Jr. picked off Daniel Jones, with a breakup in between.
7. Injuries and idle players
The following players didn’t practice because of injuries: WR Ja’Marcus Bradley (neck), S Grant Delpit (hamstring), G Michael Dunn (back), Tony Fields II (foot), CB A.J. Green (neck), LB Jacob Phillips (elbow), LB Sione Takitaki (hamstring), S Sheldrick Redwine (ankle), CB M.J. Stewart Jr. (hamstring) and CB Denzel Ward (soreness). Takk McKinley is still absent for a personal reason, and Anthony Schwartz rested his hamstring. Myles Garrett, Jadeveon Clowney and Odell Beckham Jr. all put on pads but sat out team drills.
8. Two new linebackers
With Phillips being lost for the possibly the season and Sione Takitaki sidelined with a hamstring, the Browns signed linebackers Willie Harvey and re-signed Montrel Meander. They waived running back Corey Taylor and receiver JoJo Ward.
Harvey (5-11, 230 pounds) was originally signed as an undrafted free agent by the Browns out of Iowa State in 2019. He spent the first two weeks of the 2019 season on the club’s practice squad before being elevated to the active roster, playing in two games. He later suffered a shoulder injury, causing him to miss the remainder of the 2019 season. He was released during final roster cuts in 2020.
Meander (6-2, 215 pounds) is a first-year player out of Grambling State originally signed by the Browns as an undrafted free agent in 2018. Meander spent portions of the 2018-20 seasons on the practice squad. He was inactive for five games with the Raiders in 2018.
In 2020, he appeared in four games and spent the remainder of the season on the Browns’ practice squad. He had been in this summer’s camp until released on Aug. 16.
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