It’s been a bad year for the concept of joint practices, but on Thursday a scrimmage between the Rams and Bengals took the cake.
It’s unclear what caused this to pop off, but there have been unconfirmed reports that Rams superstar Aaron Donald was pushed to the ground at the end of the play, which sparked this brawl. Regardless of what kicked it off, Donald went far and beyond an acceptable response when he pulled the helmet off a Bengals player, got his hands on another — and began swinging them at his opponents.
The video shows that these were not light hits. Donald was swinging down over his head at full force, and was lucky to not have injured anyone in the incident. It’s yet another case of two teams trying to have joint practices and watching them boil over as players are unable to keep their cool.
In terms of what happens next, it’s murky. Myles Garrett of the Browns was suspended indefinitely in Week 11 of the 2019 season for pulling the helmet off Steelers QB Mason Rudolph and hitting him with it, and was reinstated prior to the 2020 season, missing six games in total.
While that is the NFL’s rubric for using a helmet as a weapon in the regular season, the league has not enforced any penalties during these mixed practices. Teams have been asked to more or less self-police these scrimmages, with the league having little or no involvement. Typically an infraction at practice wouldn’t lead to a suspension or penalty, but this is an extreme case of violence during practice — and something that will undoubtably make mainstream news beyond the sports world.
We’ll have to watch and see how this unfolds because it could be a major factor leading into the 2022 NFL regular season if Donald is forced to miss games.